Daring Bakers December Challenge: Stollen wreath

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Stollen is a traditioal German christmas recipe. So I should be very happy to finally have the possibility to make something from my own cuisine, especially I am located in the middle of this pastry comes from. The town where I live now (and went to school) is just 30 km away from Dresden where the center of the Stollen tradition is located. Outside my home village (8 km away) was the famous 'Zeithainer Lustlager' where Augustus II the Strong had the giant 1.7 ton-Stollen in 1730 - read more at the 'Dresdner Stollen festival' section here.
There is just one twist: I hate Stollen. I remember clearly every time in my childhood we were making it. I had to get up at six in the morning and stand in the kitchen for hours, wearing a headscarf and kneading tons of dough in big washing bowls, sinking into it as far as my elbows. We usually made around 10 to 12 large ones which were baked at the lokal bakery in our village. The best thing was covering them with butter and sugar because I would get the rests of  melted butter and sugar which were spilled around. I rarely ate a piece afterward because I don't like candied oranges or lemons and most of all raisins. So I though about making a Quark or poppy seed version (last year I made one with chocolate and almonds - the recipe is in German). Someone in the forum later mentionde dried fruits, so I changed my mind and tried my own version with dried cranberries (instead of raisins) and dried strawberries (instead of zests) soaked in Contreau (instead of rum). Finally I changed the almonds with macadamias and added a marzipan filling.
My mother-in-law who watched the baking procedure while knitting in the kitchen immediately fell in love with the smells evaporating from the oven and could't wait until the wreath was cooled for a taste. She asked me for the recipe afterwards. My brother on the other side, who is a real Stollen fan first refused to taste my version. After tasting a slice he stated that it wasn't bad but didn't deserved the name Stollen. "It is a nice yeast-dough bread and you can have butter or jam on it for breakfast, but don't call it Stollen." he said. I liked my creation (especially the untraditional shape) - maybe the Stollen and I will become friends at last ;)

Stollen WreathMakes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people
  • 60ml lukewarm water 
  • 2 packages (14 grams) active dry yeast
  • 240 ml milk
  • 140 grams unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
  • 770 grams all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • 115 grams sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon/6 grams cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract (I used juice)
  • 135 grams dried strawberries, cut into small cubes
  • 170 grams dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons/45ml Contreau
  • 100 grams flaked almonds (used honey-roasted macadamias)
  • 150 g marzipan/almond paste for filling
  • melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
  • Confectioners’/powdered sugar for dusting wreath
In a small bowl, soak the  cranberries and strawberries in the Contreau (best overnight) and set aside.
Pour 60 ml warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely. In a small saucepan, combine milk and 1butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon/orange juice and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Add in the soaked fruits and almonds/macadamias and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. 
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.
Note: I used my brad machine for making the dough. I added the ingredients while the machine was kneading and added the fruits and nuts during the last kneading process during the 'making dough' programm, started it again and let it work until the dough had the right consistency. After that, I transferred it into my largest bowl where it rested in the refridgerator for two days. I baked it on christmas morning (24th).

Shaping the dough and baking the wreath

Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Roll the marzipan into small cylinders about 1 cm thick and place onto your dough rectangle in 3 rows with same space between.
Starting with a long side, roll up the dough tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh. When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
If you are crazy enough, you can keep the Stollen in a dry and cool place until Easter. This is the time when it will taste the best (it you believe my parents).

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