Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Stollen

Every Saturday morning, while Jess supervised the cleaning chores we all were assigned, Ada Ruth would set a big bowl of yeast dough to raise. She did not seem to measure, but the bowl itself and the feel of the dough told her she had the right amount of yeast flour, eggs, milk and butter. For she wasn't making daily bread but the dough for sweet rolls, coffee cakes, caramel rolls. Every Saturday morning airmen would come to the house just about the time rolls were coming from the oven, the smells of cleaning products wiped out by cinnamon, hot raisins, lemon glaze and the heavenly smell of rich yeast bread. Not only sweet, rolls, but cakes, and pies were made every Saturday morning.

But for Christmas, stollen was made. The dough was richer and filled with candied fruit. Ada would roll a portion of the dough into a square, spread it with melted butter, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, raisins, dried fruit and roll into a long pinwheel. Then Ada would form it into a circle and carefully slash only part way into the ring. Each segment would be turned on its side, the top decorated with perfect half pecans or walnuts and green and red glace cherries and left to rise again and then baked until golden. Finally the top would be glazed with lemon jice and powdered sugar glaze while the stollen was still hot. A perfectly beautiful flower or a wreath for Christmas breakfast.

Every Christmas I make stollen for my family and special friends. I use the recipe that Ada used throughout my childhood. When she went to Arizona she learned a great many shortcuts but they weren't part of my memories, so I use the one that I watched her make. Only I have to measure the ingredients.

Christmas Stollen
Have all ingredients at about 75 degrees
Sift before measuring 6 to 8 cups of all-purpose flour (or bread flour).
Crumble 1 1/2 to 2 caakes of compressed yeast
or 3 tablespoons of dried yeast into 1 1/2 cups 85 degree scalded, cooled milk until dissolved. Add one cup of the sifted flour. Let this sponge rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
While it is rising sift your sugar.
Beat until soft 1 1/2 cups butter. Add the sugar gradually as you beat the butter. until it is light and creamy. Beat in one at a time 3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Add the raised sponge and the five cups flour and knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Add the larger amount of flour if it is too soft and sticky. Let it rise until almost double in bulk.
While it is rising prepare your fillings.
Candied fruit with chopped pecans or
Chopped hazelnut with grated orange peel and cinnamon or
Chopped almonds with cherry preserves or
Poppy seeds ground with raisins, sugar, sour cream and cinnamon
Variations are part of the fun.
Toss the raised dough onto a floured board. I divide it into three parts and prepare each portion a different way. Usually I make a stollen, a caramel coffee cake, and a braided apple and raisin loaf. the braided loaf, alled Vanocka is supposed to represent the swaddled Christ Child.
I used the measurements from the stollen recipe in the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer et al, but modify the procedure to do it as my mother did.

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