The “holiday breads” round-up over at Wild Yeast inspired me to tackle stollen, the German fruit-studded, marzipan-filled Christmas bread. A bonus: my stollen recipe (from–who else?–Peter Reinhart) uses sourdough starter! It’s a variation of his panettone recipe (p. 163, Artisan Breads Every Day, which is also the basis for his hot cross bun, Greek Easter bread, and brioche recipes.
For my stollen, I quickly dispensed with the traditional raisins/assorted dried fruit, ditching them in favor of dried cherries (a better match for the almond-paste filling). The bread has multiple steps, although it’s not as fiddly as you might imagine. The starter needs to ferment for 8-12 hours before the dough is mixed, but it requires no additional rise/proofing. Instead, the filled, shaped dough goes into a cold oven and briefly rises while the oven heats.
Flavorwise, homemade stollen has little in common with the boxed versions sold in U.S. stores at holiday time, which are leaden, overly sweet, and studded with horrible fruits. This stollen is tender, crisp-crusted, and the flavors of cherry and almond shine through.
- 3 T sourdough starter (42.5 g)
- 1 -1/3 cups unbleached bread flour (170 g)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 T water, at room temperature (85 g)
Mix the starter, flour, and water together in a mixing bowl until combined (1-2 minutes). Knead briefly by hand to make a tacky dough. Ferment at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours. Starter will swell and bubble, perhaps even doubling in size. After fermented, the starter can be held for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- All of the starter
- 1 T honey
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1-2/3 cups unbleached bread flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 T sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups dried cherries, plumped in hot water & drained
- 1 roll almond paste or marzipan (8 ounces), rolled into a 10-inch long cigar shape
Cut the risen starter into pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine the honey, water, and yeast in a cup, stirring to dissolve. Allow mixture to stand 1 minutes. Pour this mixture over the starter; stir to soften the starter. Separately, stir the egg, yolks, and vanilla. Pour over the starter mixture; stir until incorporated. Add flour and salt. Continue to mix, using the paddle attachment on lowest speed, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar in 1/2 tablespoon increments, continuing to mix on low, until it is all incorporated. Switch to a dough hook and gradually add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time, mixing on medium-low speed and waiting until the butter is incorporated into the dough before adding more. Once all of the butter is kneaded in, mix for an additional 5 minutes on medium-low to develop the gluten. The dough will develop strength; when pulled, it will stretch into long, taffylike strands. Add the cherries to the dough, kneading just long enough to fold the fruit in.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter. Gently pat & stretch it into a 10 by 6 inch rectangle. Place the almond paste cylinder at one end of the rectangle and roll the dough up over the paste. Seal the edge of the dough by pinching firmly to stick it closed. Put the shaped stollen onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (notice I forgot the parchment; it stuck a little to the pan, but wasn’t a complete disaster). Place it into a cold oven and heat to 350 degrees. Once the oven reaches 350, bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake and additional 25 minutes. Remove once the bread is golden brown and interior temperature reaches 185. Immediately after baking, brush the top generously with melted butter and a thick dusting of powdered sugar.