Makes 1 large stollen
Rich Christmas tea breads of German origin are found in various parts of northern Europe and seem to have had Christian or even earlier connotations. In one version from Dresden, the marzipan running through the middle of the loaf is used to create a shape suggestive of the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Other versions omit the marzipan altogether. In the recipe below, I use marzipan because it gives a wonderful moistness to the loaf, but I like to disperse it more evenly than in the Dresden stollen by rolling a sheet of it up with the dough, so that every mouthful benefits.
Place the fruit in a small bowl or strong plastic bag and pour the rum, brandy, or juice over it (you can be more generous with the rum if you feel inclined). It is best to do this a few hours before making the stollen or even overnight. Stir the fruit through with your fingers or shake the bag periodically to help the liquid to soak in.
Mix these ingredients together to make a firm paste suitable for rolling on the work surface. It is a good idea to make this the day before and store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Using two types of sugar may seem a bore, but with just one or the other the marzipan becomes either too gritty or too smooth. If you don't have any confectioner's sugar handy, whiz up the total quantity of ordinary sugar in a blender or coffee grinder to reduce its grittiness.
The Stollen Dough
If you have been generous with the rum to soak your fruit, your largesse is now rewarded. Drain any excess liquid from the fruit and enjoy a cup of anticipatory good cheer. Fold the drained fruit gently into the prepared festive bread dough after it has had its hour of bulk fermentation, trying not to break up its structure completely but aiming to distribute the fruit reasonably evenly. You may need to use another 2 to 4 tablespoons of flour to dust your hands and the work surface as you fold the fruit into the dough. Having done so, relax the dough (and yourself, perhaps) for 10 minutes.
Using a light dusting of flour on the work surface and your rolling pin, roll the marzipan into a rectangle about 8 X 6 inches (20 X 15cm). Then roll or stretch the dough out to make a rectangle very slightly larger than the marzipan. Place the marzipan on the dough, press down gently and then roll the whole thing up like a jellyroll, finishing with the seam underneath the resulting log. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Brush the stollen thoroughly with beaten egg, being careful not to leave any tide marks around the edge. Cover loosely and put in a warm place to prove, making sure that the cover cannot come into contact with the dough. When the stollen is proofed, bake in a moderate oven 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 30-40 minutes, until it is golden brown all over. As soon as it is out of the oven, brush it liberally with melted butter, then leave to cool. Sprinkle all over with confectioner's sugar and, if you like, decorate your stollen with a red ribbon.
Simple confectioner's sugar will soak quite quickly into the surface of the stollen (you can be sure that the everlasting dusting on commercial stollen with a long shelf life is fortified with strange additives). The traditional remedy is to dust your stollen afresh with confectioner's sugar just before serving. Some traditional German products are sold with a little sachet of sugar for just this purpose.
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This page created November 2009
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