Almost twenty years ago, at Christmastime, my dad bought a loaf of stollen for the first time. He brought it home, cut it up and plated it. We were eager to try something so foreign and – for kids growing up in the burbs in the 90s – so exotic-sounding. But, one bite in, our excitement quickly unravelled, being replaced with the uneasy feeling of being duped. Not unlike a lot of the holiday fruitcakes I’ve reluctantly tasted over the years, this store-bought stollen was dry and lacklustre – a pasty-coloured loaf studded with nondescript dried fruit that rolled out off the sides with each bite.
It was miserable.
Unlike the rest of us, my dad saw the potential of this German-style fruitcake and shortly thereafter, set out to make his own. He sourced different recipes, even quizzing our German neighbour, Mrs. Nack, for secret stollen-making tips. And then, nearly every year since, he’s gone into full stollen-production mode – drenching the fruit several days ahead, making the dough, cutting the loaves, baking them, dusting them with sugar and wrapping them attentively. For someone who doesn’t bake (or have a Teutonic bone in his body), dad’s got this German sweet bread down to an art. The final result is a beautifully dense, yeasty bread, brimming with sliced almonds and a boozy mixture of currants, raisins and citrus peel. The longer it sits, the better it gets, as the brandy further permeates the crumb and the almonds slowly transform into marzipan. There isn’t a trace of neon-coloured maraschino or stale walnut in this fruitcake. Not if dad has anything to do with it. And that’s the way we like it.
Wishing a very happy birthday to my dad ♥ and a Happy New Year to all of you, dear readers! Looking forward to sharing more tasty edibles with you in 2014.
- 1⅓ cups currants
- 1 cup orange zest
- 1 cup lemon zest
- 3 cups raisins (Thompson or sultanas)
- 4 ⅓ cups sliced, blanched almonds
- 6½ cups (1 kilo) sifted flour
- 6 packets yeast (8 gr each)
- 2 cups icing sugar
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- tsp cinnamon
- 2 pinches mace
- 2 pinches allspice
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup brandy
- 2 cups lukewarm milk (reserve 1 cup for proofing the yeast)
- 1⅓ lbs butter, room-temperature
Pour the brandy over the mixture of currants, raisins, almonds & citrus zest. Mix and cover, allowing to soak overnight (or over several days). Proof the yeast by sprinkling it over 1 cup of the lukewarm milk (about 100ºF) to which has been added a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes. The yeast is active if it forms a creamy foam on top of the milk. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the room-temp butter, icing sugar, the remainder of lukewarm milk, spices and the proofed yeast mixture and mix. Transfer to a slightly floured work surface and knead thoroughly. Cover the dough and allow to rise for approx. 30 minutes in a warm place. Add the prepared fruit mixture. Knead the fruit mixture thoroughly into the dough. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a long thick cylinder shape and cut into 4-6 pieces. Form into loaves. Transfer to a greased and floured baking tray, cover with a clean dish towel and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes in a warm, draft-free place. Preheat the oven to 350º F and bake for 50 minutes. While the stollen is still warm, brush with melted butter and dust with icing sugar. Drizzle a little brandy over-top. Wrap well in muslin cloth or aluminium foil and store in a cool place. Note: Dad likes to douse his stollen every couple of days with brandy to keep it moist (and, let’s be honest, make it more delicious and boozy). Just re-dust the whole loaf with a bit of powdered sugar before serving.