One of my favorite things about the holidays is just how fabulous our house smells these days. Between the two giant Christmas trees and the non-stop baking marathon going on in the kitchen you might not even notice that we live with two enormous dogs and two cats! Seriously though, the smell of citrus, spices and loads of butter always puts me in the holiday spirit. Each family has different holiday baking traditions and our’s skew decidedly German in origin. One of the first recipes I bake each December is our Christmas stollen. A delicious, sweet cake-like bread studded with fruit and nuts it is wonderful toasted with butter for breakfast or afternoon tea. It keeps for ages and the baked loaves freeze beautifully. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s original recipe. Enjoy!
3 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
11 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1 1/4 cups plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups currants
1/2 cup Cognac
2 1/2 cups golden raisins
1/2 cup orange juice
Grated zest of 4 oranges
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 pound citron, diced
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 1/2 cups blanched almonds, chopped
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water, and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In two separate small bowls, soak the currants in the cognac and the raisins in orange juice for about 10 minutes
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, mace and nutmeg.
Stir in milk and 1 1/4 cups of the melted butter. Add dissolved yeast and eggs.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
In a medium bowl, mix together the currants and raisins (with their soaking liquids), orange and lemon zest, citron, apricots and almonds. Knead the mixture into the dough. It will seem impossible at first that all of those goodies will incorporate into the dough but eventually they will. If the dough becomes too sticky work in more flour. Knead for about 10 minutes or until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
Place the dough in a large buttered bowl (the butter keeps the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises). Cover with a kitchen towel and let in rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until it has doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.
Punch down the dough and cut into four pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle (about 12-by-8 inches). Brush one side with melted butter and then fold one long side to the center. Fold the other long side over the first side, overlapping by an inch. Turn the dough over and taper the ends. Repeat for the remaining three pieces.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place two loaves on each baking sheet. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stollen until golden brown, about 35 minutes. If you are baking all four loaves at once be sure to rotate the baking sheets in the oven halfway through baking.
Cool the loaves thoroughly on a wire rack before dusting with confectioner’s sugar.