Christmas Stollen: Slightly New, Slightly Improved, Still Delicious

I’ve been talking about my family’s Christmas Stollen recipe for years, and I think it’s time the recipe finally made its way out into the world.  German Christmas Stollen perplexed me as a kid. Was it stolen? Why did we bake bread and call it stolen? What was this thing called “candied citron,” and why didn’t I get to eat it all the time?

I didn’t learn too many answers over the years, but I did learn a few things.  We didn’t steal the bread or the recipe.  The recipe came to me from my mom, who got it from my grandmother, who got it from someone else through totally legitimate means.  And I don’t eat candied citron all the time because it’s probably 95% sugar.  Most importantly, no matter how much I know or don’t know about this recipe, the bread comes out tasty and full of memories. Just how I like it.

The first few years I made it, I stuck to the recipe precisely.  This year, I had the revolutionary idea that I could in fact change the one ingredient I don’t like without killing the integrity of the recipe/tradition.  Thus, we used dried cranberries instead of the traditional raisins.  I personally think it’s even better the new way, if slightly less classic.  The cranberries have a tiny bit more punch, and they’re just a touch juicier than their raisin cousins.  Mmm.

STOLLEN!

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
5 cups flour (self-rising is what I use)
1/2 cup cut-up candied citron
1/2 cup cut-up candied cherries
1 cup slivered almonds
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup dried cranberries (or raisins in the traditional recipe)
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup soft butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
Optional ingredient: almond paste

Directions:
Scald milk. (If that’s an intimidating thing because of the whole potentially burned milk issue, just heat it up slowly.) Add 1/2 cup sugar and salt to milk and then cool that mixture. Sprinkle yeast on warm water until dissolved. Add to milk with 1 cup of flour. Remove lumps with a whisk. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours. (Keep in mind that neither my mom nor I have ever had this step work as planned. Let it rise for about 2 hours, hope the bulk has become bulkier, and move on to the next step. I’ve found that self-rising flour helps with the whole process.)

Stir in all of the remaining ingredients through the nutmeg.

mixin
(Right before this picture is an all-important step for me.  Eat extra candied citron.  Some years I am self-controlled and put the extra into the dough to enjoy later.  Some years I go after it with a spoon.  It’s good stuff.)

citron
After you stir in those ingredients, add 3 cups of flour. Knead in 1 more cup of flour until dough is smooth and elastic (sometimes more than the listed amount of flour–that’s fine!). Roll into a large oval and divide into four parts. Roll those four parts into smaller ovals, each about 1/2″ thick. Brush the top of each with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (2 of last 3 ingredients) and add almond paste along the center of the oval (in the longer direction of the oval).  Some almond paste comes in a cylinder and can be sliced and placed in slices.  Other almond paste is more like a jelly and can be spread.  I don’t ever use quite enough.  Be as generous as you see fit.

Once they’re all cinnamony and almond-pasted up, fold the ovals over the long way so that they’re long half-ovals.  Then mold them with your hands until they look like fat crescent moons.  Press along the crease to seal up the good stuff on the inside.  It helps to fold the crease down instead of up.  Brush the top of each crescent with butter, cover with wax paper, then a dish towel. Let rise until double (more accurate doubling tendency, in my experience).

done
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-50 minutes (thus says the recipe–45-50 seems to work for me) or until golden.  Cool.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar when ready to serve.  Can be served warm or room temperature.  You can put butter on your slice or not.  I’m lazy and usually forget the sugar and the butter.  Fortunately there’s more of each baked in.  And there you go.  Half of your life for four loaves of Christmas bread, and believe it or not, it’s worth every minute.

Homemade Goodness and Pecan Spinwheels

Yesterday was Christmas baking day, but I didn’t factor in time for the dough to do its thing and for the oven to preheat and bake and bake some more, and for me to then take care of the trillion dishes that baking produced.  My kitchen looks like a disaster area or an example of a hundred and one health violations.  Don’t worry, it was sanitary before the baking happened.

The original intention was to make two batches (doubling the recipe doesn’t really work out in this case), so there are some extra ingredients and things scattered around the kitchen with all of the other mess.  Only one batch made it to completion, which brings up the next issue.

I have 3.75 loaves of stollen to show for my labor.  I assumed I would have 7.75 loaves at this point (that last quarter loaf is for necessary quality-sampling purposes and because you can’t take bread out of the oven without eating some).  Do I go for another round of baking?  Do I sacrifice several good hours of sleep tomorrow for the sake of tasty food?  I’m reasonably certain the answer to that question is going to be “no” this year.  Sorry, friends.  Several of you were slated to receive stollen in the next few days, but it looks like I’m going to have to be selfish with my meager baked output.

With all of that beautiful baked bread/dessert at home, I still managed to buy Little Debbie Pecan Spinwheels today at the grocery store.  I consumed two of them within twenty minutes of the purchase.  Spinwheels have been a long-term favorite.  They’re totally sweet and desserty, but they’re just on the okay side of the junk food spectrum.  They’re kind of a natural color, after all.  You could pretend they’re not bad for you, unlike most of their Little Debbie cousins.  (Swiss Cake Rolls?  Not even remotely close to being healthy.)

Enough of a reverie about food for one day, right?  I promise I have other interests.  Sometimes I think about friends and books and other things between thoughts about food.

Speaking of other things, I recently watched Saving Private Ryan for the first time.  It was a fantastic movie–sad and powerful and all of that.  I did have to watch it in small doses though, and it was the TV edited version.  I have a hard time watching war movies with semi-contemporary weapons now that my brother is in the army.  The end of the movie threw me off, too.  If it was trying to make me feel better about all of the sadness of the first 95% of the movie, it totally failed.  If it was trying to portray the brokenness of the world, it achieved that goal.  I’ll be on a strict regimen of comedies for the next week to recover from all of that.