What if instead of cookies this year, we give Santa a slice of Stollen, a traditional sweet German Christmas bread? Specifically, one made by Greg Wade, the two-time James Beard Award finalist who's the head baker at Chicago's Publican Quality Bread. Be warned that this is a two-day process, albeit one that's worth the mostly hands-off effort. It starts with a preferment, which just means you're making a tiny piece of the dough before making the actual dough. From there, you're a spin in a stand mixer and a few rounds of proofing away from a fruit- and nut-spiked, marzipan-filled loaf of holiday joy.
Recipe adapted from Greg Wade, Publican Quality Bread, Chicago IL
Yield: 3 medium loaves
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus overnight proofing time
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, plus overnight proofing time
For the Preferment:
1 cup bread flour
1 cup milk
¾ teaspoon fresh yeast or small pinch active dry yeast
For the Dough:
1 cup raisins, soaked in apple cider and drained
1 cup dried cherries, soaked in apple cider and drained
½ cup candied orange peel, diced
½ cup candied lemon peel, diced
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
⅔ cup milk
2 cups bread flour
¾ cup spelt flour
2½ teaspoons fresh yeast or ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
⅔ cup sugar
2½ teaspoons salt
2 egg yolks
1¾ teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mace (or cardamom)
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup butter, softened
Melted butter, for brushing
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
For the Marzipan:
2 cups almond flour
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
1¼ teaspoons almond extract
1½ teaspoons orange blossom water
1½ egg whites
½ teaspoon salt
1. In the evening the day before making the bread, make the preferment: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly combined. Make sure this mixture does not go more than halfway up the bowl, as it will expand. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
2. Combine the raisins and dried cherries in a bowl with apple cider until they are completely submerged. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.
3. Additionally, make the marzipan: Combine the almond flour and confectioners' sugar in a food processor, pulse to combine, then add the remaining ingredients and process until the mixture forms a thick paste. Remove from the food processor, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day: Drain the raisins and cherries and briefly pat dry. Try not to squeeze too much of the cider out of them, but they will incorporate better if the skins are dried a bit. Set aside with the candied orange, candied lemon and toasted almonds.
5. Gently warm the milk for the final mix in a pot on the stove. It should be brought to room temperature, or just warm, but not hot.
6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the preferment, bread flour, spelt flour, yeast, sugar, salt, egg yolks, vanilla, warm milk and spices. Mix on a slow speed until combined.
7. Once everything is incorporated, mix on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and shiny and balling up in the center of the mixing bowl.
8. Turn the mixer down again and add the softened butter, mixing slowly until incorporated. Add the candied orange, candied lemon, toasted almonds, drained raisins and drained cherries. Mix for 1 minute, or until dispersed in the dough evenly.
9. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let sit in a warm (80°F) area for 2 hours. An oven with just a pilot light on works well for this. The dough should have risen slightly after 2 hours.
10. Fold the dough over itself then cover and let sit in a warm area again for another 1½ to 2 hours, or until about doubled in size.
11. Divide the dough in thirds (they should weigh about a pound each) and gently round. Let this dough rest while you get out the marzipan and divide that in thirds, too.
12. Take each piece of marzipan and roll into a log about 1" thick and 4" long. Flatten each piece of dough into a long oval, place one log of marzipan in each piece of dough in the center, then fold the dough over the marzipan leaving a longer lip of dough on the bottom. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 1½ hours.
13. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Have the melted butter ready.
14. After the final rise, place the bread on a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 15 more minutes. When fully baked, the bread should feel light and will reach an internal temperature of 190°F.
15. Remove from the oven and brush immediately (and generously) with melted butter. Let cool for about an hour, then dust heavily with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.