Monday, December 17, 2012

Delicious No Matter the Language

Stollen for Breakfast
So many cultures, and so many wonderful recipes. I have focused on my Slovak and Serbian ethnic recipes, and on Guatemalan foods I learned to love, along with Indian. When Christmas time rolls around, regardless how many other goodies there are to eat, German Stollen bread is on my list. Fruit and nut filled and rich with butter and egg, this bread is just marvelous for breakfast or brunch, with coffee or tea on a cold winter's morn. These things are food for the soul, and are made from the heart.

There are many, many Stollen recipe variations, of course. Everyone who writes a recipe declares theirs is the only "right" way. I declare there is no right way to make anything, but only interpretations. All recipes are personal interpretations. We alter a recipe to include an ingredient we prefer, or leave one out that we dislike. Then and there, the recipe is now a personal variation and no longer someone else's.

Small Stollen loaves, just baked
and glazed with a simple icing
I enjoy reading recipes, and variations on recipes. I love seeing the differences and similarities and then making them to my own taste. I rarely make a recipe as it is given. Stollen bread is basically as I described: fruit and nut filled and butter and egg rich. Amounts and specifics are left to personal interpretation. I prefer having my Stollen filled to overflowing with the fruits and nuts. Though many Stollen recipes call for citron in large quantity, I dislike citron and would never put it in anything I make. Does that make it any less good? I think not. Some recipes call for cherries, and some not. I am not generally wild about raisins when baked in a food, but I do use them in my Stollen, because it seems an integral part of the recipe. Golden or dark raisins, either/or, or both. I really love candied orange peel, so that goes in.

But have you ever tried to make such an overwhelmingly rich yeast dough? It is very hard for the yeast to have an effect on such a heavy dough, so the making of Stollen is a long process. Rising times are very long. There is a kind of yeast, available from the King Arthur flour site, called SAF Gold. It is
meant for precisely this type of rich dough. Unfortunately, it is only available in 1-pound bricks. The reason behind the slow rising process, as explained in the King Arthur Flour / Baker's Catalogue is this:

“Sweet breads can be agonizingly slow risers. Why? Because sugar attracts water, and when it's in bread dough, it pulls water away from yeast - leaving the yeast thirsty and unable to grow. The special strain of yeast in SAF Gold is ‘osmotolerant’ – it requires less water. So it's able to grow happily despite sugar's attempts to leave it ‘high and dry.”

I started making my Stollen this morning at 10:30 AM. The last loaves were out of the oven at 6:30 PM. I have been working on many other things today, while waiting for the dough to rise, so its not that I had to be there attendant upon the dough. Just checking in periodically is enough. The bread is made for this year, and I am pleased. The recipe makes two quite large loaves, or three more medium sized loaves. This year I want to give them as gifts, so I made 8 smaller loaves. See the recipe for my Stollen loaves and you might be tempted to spend a nice day inside watching this marvelous bread rising, with the promise of such goodness at the end.

Dough ready to form into loaves


makes 2 large or 6 small breads
6 - 8 cups bread flour
2 packages dry yeast, or SAF Gold, or Instant Rise
1½ cups water or scalded milk (at 85-degrees)
½ pound raisins
½ pound almonds, blanched, peeled, chopped
½ pound candied fruits (cherries, orange peel, pineapple)
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups butter (3 sticks), room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac (optional)

Blanch almonds in boiling water until the skins soften, drain and rinse, peel and chop the almonds. Or, just use already slivered almonds.

Mix the yeast into the scalded milk, cooled (or water) to about 85 degrees. Allow to rest for10 minutes.

Chop the candied fruits into smaller bits and add a little flour, tossing so the fruits separate more easily. Add in the raisins and almonds, tossing to combine. May substitute golden raisins (Sultanas) for all or part of the total amount.

Once the yeast has bloomed, add in 1 cup of the flour and whisk well. Allow this sponge to grow until doubled in size, about ½ hour.

Cream the butter until light. This may be done in a large, heavy duty mixer, such as Kitchen Aid. Add in the sugar, a little at a time. Beat in the eggs until combined. Add in the brandy or cognac, if using. Add in the fruits and nuts, lemon or lime zest and the risen sponge mixture to combine, then add in another 5 to 7 cups of flour, as needed. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is silky smooth and elastic.

Place the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until almost doubled in bulk. Once risen, turn out onto a floured surface and divide into 2 sections. Form each section into a loaf and place into greased loaf pans. These loaves may also be formed into oval or round loaves and placed on baking sheets. Allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk. Bake the loaves in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.