Tis the season to be a baker. December always yields delicious cookies (300 this Christmas) and high electric bills because my oven never stops. This year was no different, except that I added yeast to my grocery list.
The Daring Bakers challenge was to make stollen, which is a german fruitcake of sorts. I’ve never made stollen, but I did make a lot of fruitcake last year. I’d say the two are quite different. Stollen uses yeast which definitely makes it more of a fruit bread rather than a cake. And it doesn’t require a routine alcohol bath for 1-2 months prior to serving like fruitcake typically does.
The version of stollen that was suggested used candied fruit peel along with raisins and almonds. I bought a couple oranges, lemons, and limes and got to work. Candied fruit peel is super easy, but you definitely need to allow time to do it. I made stollen twice this month (one in the early part of the month and the other for Christmas breakfast) and learned that lesson. The first time, I followed the instructions and ended up with wonderful peel, though I didn’t have as much as I would have liked. And the lime peel was too hard so I ended up picking those out. The second time, I had only about an hour before I had to leave for work and thought that would be enough. I had already forgotten the process, but bringing water to a boil three times, and allowing the peel to boil for 10 minutes each time, then making a sugar/water syrup for the peel to soak up takes way longer than an hour. So when I ended up with soggy peel that could not be coated in sugar, I wasn’t sure what to do. I returned from work and stuck the still soggy peel in the oven on low for over an hour to dry it up. It actually worked pretty well, at least good enough to use in my 2nd stollen.
Working with yeast is pretty easy. It basically just needs to grow in warm water for 10 minutes before being put to work. Earlier in the month, I had played with yeast trying to recreate an authentic belgian waffle. I ended up with bread-like waffles which weren’t terrible, but they weren’t authentic. I’ll be tweaking that recipe and giving it another go probably next month, but because of that experiment, I had the yeast on hand, ready to go.
Making the dough was simplified by my kitchenaid mixer, which was more than happy to do the 6 minutes of kneading that was required. The only thing about stollen is that it’s not something that can be quickly made, which is true of most breads. The yeast needs time to relax and grow, then relax some more before being baked. I had all the time in the world the first time I made it. But the second stollen I made was delayed by last minute Christmas shopping so I didn’t actually start making it until Christmas Eve night. That meant leaving the dough on the counter to rise (as opposed to the fridge) and waking up at 5:30 am on Christmas Day to shape it, then getting up 2 hours after that to stick it in the oven. Alas, after waking up at 5:30 am to shape the dough, I was unable to fall back asleep, and I felt it around 5 pm when I was struggling to keep my eyes open.
I’d have to say that I really enjoy stollen. I tried one last year that I bought at Cost Plus World Market and was totally turned off by it. It was not very good. But the homemade version is definitely one that I’ll keep in my recipe book.
This should be my last post of the year. Thanks for reading and I’ll return in 2011 with more adventures in the kitchen. Best wishes to you for the new year!