Think of December and the "dark days before Christmas", and think of dried fruit laden and bursting-with-almonds enriched doughs. Whether it's cake or bread, raisins and almonds are what count these days. You'll need some patience for this soft and fruity loaf, but it will be well worth it - promise!
Stollen is usually associated with Germany, and rightly so because it was perfected in Saxony in the 15th century. However, it is also immensely popular in the Netherlands: supermarkets carry stollen the size of a small baby and pretty much everyone receives one from their employer in their Christmas bonus present. The stollen seems to be declining in popularity at least somewhat though, at least in my family. Supermarket stollen are just not that exciting, bland and too sweet, as is often the result of overmarketing a particular foodstuff. But that is where a homebaked stollen will take the cake! I am hoping this "kerststol" recipe will convince people to renew this tradition.
So yeah, a little patience is necessary. But don't you usually have to wait for the best things in life? That line at the awesome rollercoaster is often daunting and so is the queue running (or creeping) towards the Mona Lisa. The filling for this bread has to be soaked overnight in a bit of rum. If you really want to eliminate all alcohol, you could try a strong black tea. But Christmas isn't complete without a bit of booziness, whether it's your auntie getting a bit (too) tipsy or you're biting into this delicious stollen. This recipe was perfected by one of the best (and most famous) patissiers of the Netherlands, Cees Holtkamp. While you're at it, make your own almond paste as it is far superior to anything shop bought - do leave it to rest for at least as long as you do the filling to "ripen" it. It will be a very merry Christmas with this fruity favorite!
Recipe Christmas Stollen (Kerststol)
yields 1 small stollen
equipment: freestanding electric mixer (you can knead by hand but a mixer will make it so much easier)
50gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped
20gr candied orange peel, finely chopped
pinch of cardamom
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of white pepper
5gr vanilla sugar
25gr rum, heated
8gr instant yeast or 25gr fresh yeast
100gr cold (full-fat) milk
250gr strong white flour
5gr lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
50gr softened unsalted butter
150gr almond paste
1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl. Cover bowl and leave to rest for 1 day.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the milk.
3. For the dough, combine flour, milk+yeast solution, sugar, egg and lemon zest and knead in a freestanding electric mixer with dough attachment until you have a smooth dough. Add the soft butter and the salt and knead for another 5 minutes.
4. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Knead or fold the filling into the dough. Leave dough to rest for another 10 minutes on a warm spot. Shape the dough into an oval shape, then rest another 10 minutes.
5. Roll dough out slightly, keeping the oval shape. Create a "furrow" for the almond paste by pressing a slim rolling pin into along the length of the middle of the oval shape. Roll your almond paste into a string to fit into the "furrow".
6. Place the almond paste into the "furrow" and lightly roll one side of the dough over the other. Place stollen on a baking tray, greased or lined with baking parchment, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes in a warm spot. In the meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
7. Bake the stollen in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Once baked, remove the raisins that are too badly burnt for consumption (it happens) and glaze with butter. Leave to cool. Dust generously with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.