The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book... and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
The recipe Penny provided for the challenge can be found on this page.
The second week of December, we visited my father-in-law and his wife in Atlanta. My father-in-law loves challah, so I made a five-braid one the day before we left and brought it with us (the recipe I use is in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day). Once we got there, I thought: why not making a Stollen for them as a gift?
I made Stollen twice during our visit. The first time, I baked one big wreath, while the second time, I made two smaller ones and I liked the result better. I brought one back to California, so I know that Stollen travels comfortably in a backpack. While we consumed it (it really keeps quite well and the last piece makes an excellent performance in French toast), I planned to make Stollen for the third time. I had some candied orange peel (scorze d'arancia candite) left over from the first two Stollen-making sessions, but since it was not enough, I got some candied citron (scorze di cedro candite) . I also used up some candied peel I had made some time ago, so, if I plan a bit ahead, I don't really need a supplier.
I followed the recipe provided by Penny, with just a couple of adjustments:
- I used 3.5 teaspoons of instant dry yeast added to the other ingredients, instead of active dry yeast
- I did not use the 1/4 cup water, because instant dry yeast is handled differently from active dry yeast
- however, I added one tablespoon of water to the rum and warmed up the liquid slightly before soaking the raisins (uvetta) in it
- I added the soaking liquid together with the raisins to the dough
- I held back about 1/4 cup of the flour and used most of it to flour the kneading board while rolling the dough.
The recipe worked out nicely. After the dough had spent a night in the fridge and then a couple of hours at room temperature, I divided it into two equal pieces and rolled each one into a rectangle, whose longest side was just over 16 inches. I rolled it and shaped it into a wreath (ghirlanda) as shown in the recipe, using a tea mug in the hollow center to keep the shape.
After the required proofing time, I baked the two Stollen together (on two baking sheets). At home, I used the convection bake option of my oven (which does the temperature adjustment automatically). After 20 minutes, I turned the baking sheet 180 degrees, as per the recipe, and baked the Stollen for another 15 minutes, at which point I checked their internal temperature and since it was 190 F, I stopped the baking. I slid the Stollen on wire racks (that's the photo above), sprinkled powdered sugar on them twice, and let them cool.
We tasted one at the end of dinner and I packaged the other as a gift (Penny, I am afraid my packaging was not very creative, but I am a notoriously bad packager, plus I knew that the Stollen would have to travel, so practical considerations prevailed over aesthetic ones).
Making Stollen was fun, and I was completely satisfied with the result of my efforts. I liked the delicacy of each flavor and the overall balance of the ensemble. The combination of raisins and candied orange and citron peel reminded me of my favorite Holiday treat, panettone (nostalgic sigh!).
A special thank you goes to our host for her choice and her efforts. It was a nice challenge. I hope you will take the time to go around and look at the creative output of my talented fellow Daring Bakers.
May the Season Bring You Peace and Joy
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the Stollen di Natale audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]