Printed from on 12/27/2009    stollen

Arguably Europe’s most well-known Christmas bread, a stollen is a folded-over, filled yeast pastry (the fold is set to represent the Christ child in his swaddling clothes). Created in Dresden, Germany, stollen started as an ordinary bread. Because medieval Catholicism forbade the use of butter during Christmas, bakers had to do without the precious fat until Dresden’s prince appealed to Pope Nikolaus V for an exception. The pope gave in: The famous “butter-letter” of 1491 decreed that Dresden bakers could use richer ingredients if they paid a fine. Thus, butter built the Saxon cathedral of Freiberg, and stollen became synonymous with Dresden (there’s an annual stollen festival to this day). The browned butter on top is divine.

8 cardamom pods
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, scalded
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1 cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice
2 (.25-ounce) packages active dry yeast
cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar, divided
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
1 egg
2 egg yolks
cup slivered almonds, toasted
10 ounces almond paste (all I could find was an 8-oz can as well as a can of almond pastry filling; I mixed the two together, but for me that made the filling too oozey.)

cup salted butter
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Place cardamom pods in a small bowl. Add hot milk. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Combine raisins and cherries with rum. Let stand.
3. Combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until mixture foams, about 10 minutes.
4. Remove cardamom pods from milk. Squeeze pods open. Scrape small black seeds into milk. Discard pods. Stir milk into yeast mixture. Add 1 cup flour; beat well. Cover this mixture (called the “sponge”) with plastic wrap; let rise 30 minutes.
5. As the sponge rises, place 2 cups flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Add salt and remaining sugar. Pulse 6 or 8 times.
6. Drain fruits, reserving soaking liquid. When the sponge is ready, add it to the processor; add lemon rind, egg and egg yolks, and soaking liquid from dried fruits. Process 20 or 30 seconds, until dough is thoroughly mixed. Then, with a few quick pulses, mix in fruits, almonds, and remaining cup flour. Scrape dough, which will be quite tender, into a large oiled bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
7. In the morning, punch dough down, and divide into thirds. On a heavily floured board, gently pull and pat each portion of dough into a 10 x 14-inch oval. Divide almond paste into thirds. Cover half of each oval, the long way, with bits of almond paste, patting with your hands (don’t worry about getting it neat). Fold the other half of the dough over it, enclosing almond paste and making a pastry that is a plump half oval.
8. Gently transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, shaping if necessary. Let rise until dough is puffy, though not quite doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
9. Preheat oven to 350F.
10. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Using 2 spatulas, transfer to a wire rack; cool about 10 minutes.
11. Towards then end of baking time, place cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When butter melts, lower heat and let butter cook until browned and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Don’t stir the butter as it browns, but you can shake the pan a little.
12. Spoon browned butter over the tops. Sift powdered sugar generously over tops. Let cool at least 20 minutes, until sugar sets slightly. Serve, in thin slices, slightly warm or at room temperature. Makes 3 stollens (10 servings each).
Note: Make stollens ahead, wrap well and freeze up to one month.

Recipe by Crescent Dragonwagon, "Holiday Breads," December 2009.

Nutritional Information
Per serving: 220 calories, 10g fat, 36mg chol., 4g prot., 27g carbs., 1.5g fiber,
92mg sodium.