I've tasted stollen over the years, and have always enjoyed it. Sometimes stollen can be a bit dry, but it always has great flavor. Legend has it that stollen originated in Dresden in the 1400's. Dresden even has a special Stollen Festival each year.
Although I did not make it to Dresden on my most recent trip to German in December (I've been there previously) I saw lots of stollen at the bakeries and Christmas markets. My hotel in Berlin even had a special little shop set up in the lobby to sell Dresden stollen.
My suitcase was too full to bring any stollen back from Germany with me, and I didn't give any thought to the possibility of baking my own until I saw this recipe for Dan Lepard's Extra Moist Stollen (recipe here, forum discussion here). It seemed like the thing to bake on a quiet winter's day in the week between Christmas and New Year's. Although my yeast-baking experience consisted entirely of (1) Kugelhopf for TWD and (2) the King Arthur English Muffin Bread, I jumped right into the deep end and tried this recipe.
- For the mixed-in fruit, I used golden raisins, unsulfured currants, and citron. (I didn't have mixed peel but have lots of citron) I macerated the raisins and currants in warmed dark rum, and used water where the recipe called for rum.
- I grated lime zest because I was out of lemons.
- At the Christmas market in Berlin I bought some orange flavored marzipan, which was perfect for this recipe. I filled one end of the stollen with the marzipan and left the other end plain.
- The recipe gives a choice of rye or wholewheat flour to add to the dough; I chose rye flour.
- I used instant yeast.
- I baked it at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. After baking for the prescribed 35 minutes the stollen was still raw on the bottom, and the internal temperature was somewhere under 150F.
- At that point I turned the oven to 'convect' and took the stollen off the cookie sheet, baking it directly on a cooling rack set on the oven rack so the heat would reach the bottom. I baked it until it registered 185F on an instant read thermometer (I lost track of the time but maybe between 15 and 30 additional minutes?) I declared it "done" and took it out of the oven.
- After letting it cool, I gingerly sliced into the loaf. As a whole it was very dense, yet moist. The very center was still a bit undercooked.
My word, this stollen was amazing. My husband and I LOVED the flavor and rationed it out over several days' time. He preferred the end without the marzipan, and I have to say that I agree. Daughter A.L.E. was home at the time I baked it and there was some flavor in it that really bothered her. We've sort of narrowed it down to the cardamom, so if you aren't a fan of that spice, leave it out.
Every time I looked at it I had this sense of unreality: Did this creation really come from my kitchen? I can see how yeast baking can be totally addictive!
By far the best part of making this stollen (aside from how GOOD it was) is the level of support that I personally received from Dan Lepard, on his baking forum. I posted a couple of questions, and he answered them quickly and completely. I asked him about the way my stollen baked up and learned that I should have used a smaller baking pan or a baking stone (and I think a higher oven temperature). Thanks, Dan!
I plan to bake this again - Christmas season or not - and will make the adjustments Dan suggested. I'll wait a little while before diving in that deep again, though! In the meantime, I'll take a giant step back and take baby steps in further yeast adventures.