High Country Baking: Busy Season Stollen Christmas bread
High Country Baking
High elevation make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
The “I-Don’t-Have-Time-to-Make-Stollen” stollen, that’s what this recipe is sometimes called. Why? Because it uses baking powder instead of yeast to make this popular Christmas bread. So instead of taking several hours to get it in the oven, it’s in there after about 25 minutes of prep time, which is a great boon for those of us who bake during this busy time of year. The results are lovely. The dough is moist and tender and the dried fruit and toasted almonds contribute delicious flavor.
Use any dried berries/fruit you like, just make sure they’re moist and pliable (I selected dried cherries, blueberries and golden raisins for the ones in the photo). If you’re an almond fan, add ¼ teaspoon of almond extract to the dough and about ¼ cup of almond paste, formed into a flattened rope, placed in the fold of the stollen before sealing and baking it.
Busy Season Stollen
Make on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Yields two loaves
1 cup dried berries/fruit
2-3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), cold
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup part skim-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon lemon oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup confectioners sugar
1. All the dried fruit should be in ¼-inch pieces or smaller, so, if needed, cut/chop them to the required size using a greased pair of kitchen scissors. Place all the fruit in a wide shallow bowl, add the rum and toss until all are wet; add more rum or water if needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and zap at high temperature in a microwave for about 20 seconds, until the fruit is very soft and moist. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 with a rack in the center position.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them, and use a pastry blender or your fingers to blend them into the dry ingredients until small, moist clumps form. (This can also be done in a food processor. If you use one, transfer the mixture to a large bowl.) Drain the fruit and add it with the slivered almonds, tossing to distribute them evenly in the flour mixture. Place the ricotta, egg, vanilla and lemon oil in another large mixing bowl and whisk/beat until fully combined and smooth. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, about ¼ of it at a time, stirring until blended after each addition. It will get hard to mix towards the end but keep going (use your hands if it’s easier) until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a stiff, sticky dough starts to take shape. Turn the dough out onto a silicone mat or a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough comes together. Flour or wet your hands if the dough sticks to them.
3. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a slightly flattened ball. Roll each one between two floured sheets of waxed paper into an 8×7 inch oval, about ½-inch thick. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and use the bottom one to help you lift one of the long sides and fold it over onto the other side so it’s about ½-inch short of the bottom edge. To make the traditional stollen shape, seal the two sides by making a deep indentation with a finger or the side of your hand an inch in back of the open edge of the top layer.
4. Move both stollen to the prepared cookie sheet, spacing them several inches apart. Bake until they’re lightly browned around the edges and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Melt the butter for the topping just before they’re done.
5. Remove the stollen, still on the parchment, to a rack. Brush each generously with the melted butter followed by a heavy sprinkling of confectioners sugar. When they’ve cooled enough to move easily, place them directly on the rack to cool completely. Serve or double-wrap airtight in plastic wrap and store at cool room temperature for up to seven days. Add another shower of confectioners sugar, if needed, before serving. If freezing the stollen, sprinkle on the confectioners sugar after defrosting.
This recipe is a variation of one published by King Arthur Flour. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Baking Above It All” and “Cookies in the Clouds,” (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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