Dove Farms stollen

This German speciality bread, made for the Christmas season, is rich with rum-soaked fruits and is wrapped around a marzipan filling. The folded shape of the dough over the marzipan is meant to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes (who knew!).

I recommend this recipe from Dove Farms https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/stollen-cake, which produced a beautiful Stollen bread. I’ve never seen presses mentioned in a bread making recipe before, but it’s an effective way of communicating how much you should knead the dough at each step. I might adopt this reference going forwards in recipes that I write! The other technique that I learnt from this recipe is that when making a fruited loaf it’s good to press any exposed fruits into the dough before baking, to prevent them catching and burning.

Ingredients

Makes 1 large stollen or 2 smaller breads

  • 100g sultanas
  • 50g currants
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 25g flaked almonds
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon, grated rind
  • 3 tbsp dark rum or apple juice
  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp easy blend dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 150ml tepid milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 200g marzipan
  • 50g icing sugar

Method

  1. Weigh the sultanas, currants, mixed peel, almonds, vanilla extract, grated lemon rind and rum into a bowl, stir, then cover and leave to stand overnight.
  2. Put the flour, yeast, sugar and nutmeg into a bowl and blend them together.
  3. Stir in the milk followed by lemon juice then, using your hands, gather everything together to form a doughy mass.
  4. Knead the dough, in the bowl, for 25 presses.
  5. Add the softened butter and knead for 50 presses to make a dough.
  6. Invert another bowl over the dough bowl and leave it in a warm place for the dough to double in size, which will take about two hours.
  7. Gently melt the butter and rub a little around the inside of a large baking tray.
  8. Knead the dough for 75 presses.
  9. Stir the prepared soaking fruit, add it to the dough and knead until combined.
  10. For one stollen, shape the dough into an oval 25cm/10” x 12½cm/5”. For two stollens, cut the dough in half and shape each into a 20cm/8” x 10/4” oval.
  11. Roll the marzipan into a 25cm/10” cylinder or two 20cm/8” cylinders.
  12. Place the larger cylinder in the middle of the larger dough or the smaller ones on the smaller dough.
  13. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and draw them up around the marzipan pinching the dough to make a seal.
  14. Place the stollen(s) on the prepared baking tray, pressing any exposed fruits back into the dough.
  15. Brush the outside of the stollen with some of the melted butter.
  16. Cover the cakes with a clean tea towel and leave it in a warm place for 1 hour.
  17. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan, 350°F, Gas Mark 4  
  18. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
  19. Remove the cake from the oven and carefully brush all over with the remaining melted butter.
  20. Sieve the icing sugar over all sides of the cake and leave to cool.
  21. When cold wrap the stollen and keep it in a tin or a cool place.
One of the stollen loaves, post bake
Slices of stollen ready to be added to family and friends’ gift boxes for Christmas!

Stollen Attempt 1

Dear readers, I have to confess that the results featured above from the Dove Farms recipe was my second attempt at making Stollen. I had a major disaster with my first attempt! I plucked a recipe from one of the baking books I own, which was accompanied by a very attractive image. That looks beautiful, I’ll give that a go! I thought, confident that I could replicate similar results.

‘Step 1 – mix raisins, mixed peel and almonds with the rum, and leave to soften overnight.’ So far, so good.

Returning to the soaked dried fruit and nuts the following day and following the second step in the recipe was where things started to come unstuck.

‘Step 2 – mix together 200g flour with milk, yeast and honey, knead to a dough, then dust with 1 tablespoon of the remaining flour. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until the surface of the dough splits.’

I dutifully followed the recipe, only to stare perplexed at the resulting mixture. Runny, sloppy, sticky…how am I meant to knead this into a dough?? I asked myself. Undeterred, I tipped the mixture out of the bowl onto the counter and attempted to bring it together. I make bread on a weekly basis, and know what a kneadable dough should look like. There was nothing remotely kneadable about the puddle of pale yellow liquid spread all over the counter.

After a few minutes of pointlessly combing the liquid through my fingers and creating a gigantic mess, I decided to deviate from the recipe and add the remainder of the flour to the liquidy gloop – instead of at the next step as the recipe instructed. To be fair, it did mean that that I could finally knead the dough and complete the second step of the recipe.

‘Step 3 – mix the remaining flour with the butter, salt, marzipan, vanilla extract, lemon zest and rum-soaked fruit and nuts, then add the dough and knead for 8 minutes. Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.’

The other unintended result of including all the flour in step 2 rather than step 3 however was that after its first prove, the dough ended up being really tight and I struggled to incorporate the fruits and nuts into it. When kneading it, the fruit and nuts bounced off the surface of the dough and showered themselves over the counter and flour rather than remaining in the dough where they belonged!

The other troublesome element was the 100g grated marzipan. The painstaking effort to grate it ended up being a futile exercise, as all the marzipan shavings found one another when I was kneading the dough for a second time, and clumped together in erratic lumps through the mixture, rather than being evenly distributed.

Starting to get rather hot under the collar, I covered the dough and left it to rise until doubled in size as instructed.

‘Step 4 – meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. Dust a baking tray with flour. Turn out the dough on to a floured work surface, knead well and place on the prepared baking tray.’

To my horror, the doubled in size dough was absolutely colossal! It also wouldn’t hold its shape properly and started to flatten and puddle out when I plonked it on the baking tray with a sigh of frustration – probably because I had so many issues with kneading it.

Step 5 – bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 1 hour, covering with baking paper or foil for the last 20 minutes of cooking if it is browning too quickly. Remove from the oven and brush with the melted butter.’

Thoroughly fed up, I shoved the bread in the oven and crossed my fingers, hoping for a mid-bake miracle that would result in the stollen turning out to be like the beautiful picture in the book.

‘Ye Gods!!’ I exclaimed when hunkered down, peering through the oven door after 20 minutes of baking, à la Great British Bake Off. ‘The stollen is exploding!!’  The stollen was so gargantuan it was starting to spread beyond the confines of the baking tray. It was also as flat as the proverbial pancake. I quickly performed an emergency operation to put another baking tray underneath it, to stop the inevitable spillage and burnt-on mess that would ensue at the bottom of the oven. The raisins and mixed peel were also starting to singe, so I also wrapped it in some foil even though it was much earlier than the recipe instructed.

‘It looks like a monstrous porcupine bread!’ I moaned to Mr Salford Kitchen at the end of the bake. The perimeter was worryingly dark, the raisins were crispened to bitter, acrid embers – yet worryingly a skewer inserted into the middle of it didn’t emerge clean, which suggested that there were still some raw parts, probably because it was so goddamned huge.

Dear readers, I wish that the story ended there. I wish that I could report that I was most yoga and zen about the whole affair, calmly disposing of the disaster bread and never speaking of it again. Alas, there were a few other frustrations thrown at me that day, and the stollen bread, innocently looking at me from the wire rack was taunting me… asking, just asking to be picked up, crushed in my hands and thrown dramatically on the tiled kitchen floor, where it promptly broke into a million pieces.

And dear readers, do you know what? Throwing that bread all over the kitchen felt amazing. That’s the best therapy I’ve had all year – even though it necessitated a giant clean-up of the kitchen afterwards. I’m still discovering errant crumbs and burnt raisins every time I open the freezer door, weeks after the fact…

The monstrous porcupine bread, shortly to meet its maker’s wrath!

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