Recipe: Christmas Stollen

Because everybody in my family (except for me) studied in Germany, when we do celebrate Christmas it is with German traditions. And one of those traditions is the Stollen, the German Christmas bread. I haven’t been able to find the exact kind here in the US, so I’ve been making it myself for a couple of years now. It doesn’t taste quite the same, but it’s fun to make, and it helps me feel closer to home.

ETA: Recipe adapted from here.

What You Need:
1 tablespoon yeast
2/3 C warm milk
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 C bread flour
1/3 C each currants, raisins and candied cherries (quartered)
2/3 C candied citrus peel (I got a tub of mixed dried fruits for fruitcake and used 1 C of it in place of the cherries and peel)
1 ts each ground ginger and allspice
6 oz. marzipan (found in the baking isle)
About 2 tablespoons melted butter and powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Dissolve yeast in the milk (I also added 1/2 tablespoon sugar to help the yeast along), let stand until foamy.

2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the sugar, butter, egg, salt and 2 C flour. Mix well. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead in the dried fruits, ginger and allspice, until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, make sure it’s coated with oil. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

4. After the dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out. Shape the marzipan into a log and place in the middle. Fold the dough over, pinch the seams together to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 300 degrees F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more. Let cool completely. Pour the melted butter over the loaf and dust it with powdered sugar (the traditional loaf is rolled in powdered sugar, but I find that a little too sweet.) Enjoy!

Sorry I didn’t have a picture of a slice yet. I’m saving this for Christmas dinner, I’ll make sure to have a picture then.


Recipe: No Knead Sourdough Bread

I love making bread. There’s something so therapeutic about blooming yeast, watching the dough rise and kneading the bread, and of course, the smell of freshly baked bread is the best. I have two basic bread recipes that have become fool-proof for me: my whole wheat bread, and this no knead sourdough bread, which I adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats. I like this recipe because it tastes like the bread we have at home, and it doesn’t require starter.

What You Need:
3 C bread flour, plus extra for shaping
1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 C water
Cornmeal (if you have it. If not, you can just use some more flour)
A  4-5 quart Dutch oven or a 9×5 loaf pan, tea towels

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (18 works best for me.)

2. After the dough has rested, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch down the dough and turn it over onto itself a couple of times. Coat hands with flour if needed to prevent sticking. Shape dough into a ball.

– If you’re using a Dutch oven (to get that rustic round shape): sprinkle a tea towel with half of the cornmeal (or flour) and lay the dough on top of it, seam side down. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the other half of the cornmeal and cover with the towel.
– If you’re using a loaf pan: dust the loaf pan with cornmeal (or flour) and carefully place the dough in it. Cover it with a towel sprinkled with more cornmeal. Allow to rise for 2 to 3 hours, until dough has doubled in size (I usually preheat the oven, then turn it off and leave the dough there.)

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the Dutch oven (if used) in it. Transfer the dough from the towel to the preheated Dutch oven (this is why I like using the loaf pan. You can just skip this step.) Cover and bake for 30 minutes (with tinfoil if you’re using the loaf pan.) Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes.

4. The hardest part – allow the bread to cool before slicing it and spreading it thick with butter and jam!

“How can you tell how good bread is without tasting it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way.” – Colette (Ratatouille)

I’m happy to say the crust of my bread crackles beautifully.