When I was at primary school, we lived near an Austrian bakery, sitting by the tram tracks of our seaside suburb. At Christmas time, the bakery used to sell the very best stollen: a Christmas bread, thick with fruit and a meltingly marzipan centre. Since we moved away, I’ll admit I’d forgotten that this was how stollen was meant to be. The memories of its rich fruitiness were replaced by the dry crumbs and meagre marzipan offerings of the cheaper imitations I’ve had since.
This year – determined not to resort to the disappointment of a supermarket loaf – me and mum made our own. We needed a reliable recipe to use as our base – enter Delia – and then we changed a few things. No candied peel (since it’s a crime against all that is holy). A bit more of everything else instead – plus dried cranberries for added festivity and ground almonds to make things moister. And we added a lot more marzipan. Life lesson: always add more marzipan.
Neither of us are big bread bakers so we were sort of half expecting this not to work at all, but Delia came through. Having only made the first one on 23rd December, due to popular demand and a rapidly decreasing supply we baked another loaf on Boxing Day, and packed my brother off back to Belfast with half of it in his suitcase. I enjoy this with a scrape of butter but you can also eat without, and after a few days it’s best zapped in the microwave.
*Gloomy photograph due to severe lack of sunlight in the North East during December.
Measure 300g of the flour in the stand of a mixer with the dough hook attached (or a large bowl). Add the salt and yeast and mix quickly to combine.
Add the currants, sultanas, cranberries, glace cherries, ground almonds, lemon zest and caster sugar and give it all another quick mix.
Make a well in the centre and add the butter and warm milk.
Add the beaten egg and mix everything together with either the dough hook or a spatula until well blended.
If you’re using the mixer, add 25g of additional flour and knead until the mixture comes together and no pockets of flour remain.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and use your hands to shape into a smooth ball. (If you’re not using the mixer, sprinkle the 25g of flour onto a board and pile the sticky mixture on top. Then turn the dough over in the flour and knead lightly to form the ball).
Leave the dough in the bowl and place inside a polythene bag closed with a clip (or a carrier bag tied at the top will do) and leave it at room temperature until it has doubled in size. This could take up to two hours depending on how warm your house is, so keep an eye on it.
Once risen, turn dough out onto a board floured with the remaining 25g of flour. Punch the air out of it and knead it back into a smooth ball before making an oblong about 15 x 20 cm – use your hands and a floured rolling pin.
Next mould the marzipan into a sausage shape about 14cm long and place width ways in the centre of the dough, finishing just short of the edges.
Bring one side of the dough over the top of the marzipan and then the other before carefully turning over so that the seam is underneath. Pop diagonally on a large baking sheet with plenty of room for expansion.
Put the whole thing in one, or you may need two, bags. We used carrier bags and left a decent amount of room for the rise, but Delia recommends ‘lightly oiled polythene bags’ for the purists among you. Leave the loaf to prove in a warm place until it has doubled in size again – about an hour – and preheat the oven to 180c, or 160c fan.
Remove the bag(s) and bake for 40 minutes in the centre of the oven. Allow the stollen to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by mixing the sifted icing sugar with the lemon juice, then use a palette knife to spread this all over the top surface of the stollen while it’s still warm.
Delia says that fresh is best and of course I’m sure she’s right, but this also keep remarkably well. The last few sentences of this blog have been fuelled by a slice from out second loaf of the season – we baked it on Boxing Day and it’s still good four days later warmed in the microwave and spread with butter.
Happy new year!
All content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.