Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cooking at home: Christmas stollen

Well, it is probably too late for this recipe to be any useful for this Christmas season, but I found this quite easy to make and could probably turn this into a normal bread or fruit cake by cutting down on sugar content. Not a lot of kneading required and so didn't leave my kitchen counter-top with gluey, messy leftover dough to clean up.

I was inspired by my friend Wilson in his recent article in the WOM Guide featuring our chef friend Gregoire (of the Four Seasons Hong Kong) for a cooking demonstration of this traditional German Christmas bread - it's similar to the Italian Panettone or English Christmas pudding as they all involve raisins and some kind of winter spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves etc), but I love the firmer texture and less sweet taste of a Stollen, far better than the other Christmas pastries.

Anyway, unfortunately Wilson's article didn't include a recipe nor ingredient list, so I went around found a couple easier ones on Google which I used as reference, and basically just improvised along the way to suit my own taste and preference. It yielded a big loaf good enough to serve 6-8 people.




Candied Peel

Almost all stollen recipe called for candied peel and raisins. I am sure you can buy candied peels from the supermarket but I wanted to make my own this time. This should be made at least a few days ahead. Many types of citrus fruits can be used - oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits or even tangerines... but for mine, I used fresh yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit known for its aromatic rind) which I brought back from a recent trip to Osaka (unfortunately fresh ones are hard to find outside of Japan) and lemon. The recipe yielded about 1/4 cup of candied peels.

Ingredients:
  • 1 yuzu and 1 lemon (make more if you want - I used that much just because that's all I got remaining in the refrigerator)
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 1.5 cup water (basically equal part of sugar and water)


Steps:

1. Scrub the fruits to remove any wax that might be present. Use your fingers or a knife to remove the rind from the fruit. Try to keep it as a whole if possible but since at the end we are slicing the peel it doesn't really matter. Reserve fruit for other use.
2. Use a sharp knife to cut away the white pith under the peel. Try to remove as much of those pith as possible as they tasted bitter. That requires your sharpest knife in the kitchen, certain skills and a lot of patience.
3. Place the peel in a large saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat once or twice (that is to remove the bitter taste)
4. At this time, you can try remove more white pith from the peel if you prefer (which is easier since the pith was softened from the repeated blanching). Then slice the peel into 1/4 inch strips.
5. Bring equal part of sugar and water to a boil, until all sugar dissolves. Add the strips into the boiling mixture, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until the mixture was reduced to a thick syrup (about an hour). There's no need to stir so the peel can be cooked and coated with sugar syrup undisturbed.
6. Remove from heat and let the strip cooled in the syrup until it's cool enough to be handled. Dry with a kitchen towel, then transfer the strips in a wire rack to cool overnight. Roll the dried strips in sugar and put them in a container. (By the way, save the syrup - it would be useful for another dessert or even pancakes or french toast some other time!)


Soaked Raisins

Gregoire told us to the raisins should be soaked in dark rum for at least 3 months or even a year, but since I sort of ran out of time, I soaked mine in sherry for about a week. Just pour enough sherry (or whisky or rum if you wish) to cover the raisins in a container and set aside. I used about a quarter cup of raisins (but in retrospect, I think it's better off with half a cup instead).

Starter Dough
Ingredients:
  • 100g Bread Flour
  • 2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 150mL whole milk
Steps

1. Put the first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir them together.
2. Heat milk in a pot until lukewarm (no boiling) and pour into the mixing bowl. Gently mix everything together and let it sit for at least 2 hours. You should end up with a sticky mixture.

Here's the rest of the ingredients and steps:
  • 200g Bread Flour (around 2 cups)
  • 100g All-purpose Flour (around 1 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup candied peel, diced (made as above and more if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup soaked raisins (more if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoon ground almond
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (freshly grounded if possible)
  • 3/4 stick butter, melted, plus 1/2 stick of butter (set aside until later)
  • pinch of salt
  • (Optional/Alternative ingredients) lemon zest (grated), cardamom, nutmeg, cloves (all grounded), almonds (silvered)
Steps:

1. With the starter dough in the bowl, put flour, granulated sugar, salt, 1 stick of butter and egg in and start mixing. You can use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a wooden spoon or hand whisk.
2. Once everything's incorporated, add the spices, the raisins, nuts (basically the rest of the ingredients except the remaining butter and icing sugar) and continue mixing until it formed a soft and smooth dough and all dry ingredients evenly distributed (texture similar to a cookie dough).


3. Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface, then place it back to a bowl, cover and let rest for at least 2 hours. The dough should expand quite a bit during this time.
4. Take out the dough, knead it a few more times, and put that into a shape you desire. I followed the steps in the WOM Guide article that I mentioned - first roll it out into a flat oval shape, then fold in from both length-side (so both sides ended up on the top of the dough). Give it a firm press in the middle (where both ends meet) and on the side to make sure everything stay together when baked.


5. After the dough was shaped, put it in a lightly-floured baking sheet, cover in a tea towel and let rest of another 2 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 170C. Remove the tea towel and bake the dough in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the surface has become deep golden brown.

 
7. While the stollen is baking, melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter in a saucepan. Pull the stollen out of the oven and put onto the wire rack with the baking tray underneath. Brush generously the melted butter on all sides of the stollen (even the bottom)
8. Dust the icing sugar onto the stollen so the entire loaf is covered in white. The more the merrier - yes, you need plenty of melted butter and sugar to do that. I grounded a little more cinnamon into my sugar before dusting too so there's a hint of spice coming from the surface of the stollen as well.
9. Leave the loaf to cool on the wire rack. Stollen can be served immediately, or can be wrapped and stored in room temperature until later. If you wish to serve it warm, re-heat in an oven or with a short blitz in the microwave if you are lazy like me. Slice just before serving.

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