Monday, December 20, 2010

December Daring Baker's Challenge - Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Before I get started, I'd like to talk a little bit about yeast. Since the heart of this challenge is the yeast, it might be nice for you non-bakers out there to understand it a little better. So, what do you know about yeast? Maybe you know it is a fungus. Did you know it is alive? Yeasts are single-celled organisms, the ones used in baking (and beer making) are called saccharomyces cerevisiae. Evidence of using yeasts for baking has been found dating back to ancient Egyptian days, but they weren't discovered to be living yeasts until 1857 when Louis Pasteur wrote a paper describing their actions. When you see yeast bubbling, it means that the yeast is emitting carbon dioxide. When yeasts feed (on sugar primarily), they give off C02, which is what makes the bubbles and also what makes breads rise. Yeasts get more active when they get warm, even more active when they get warmer and then eventually die when they get too hot (which is when the bread stops growing and keeps baking). Yeasts will slow down when cold, so that is why you sometimes see yeast stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Many yeasts breads can be kept in the refrigerator to rise slowly, thus developing even more flavor. Before yeast breads are baked, they go through a process called "proofing," which basically means that you have a period of time where you want the yeast to show you "proof" that it works, that is is alive and active. So, after rising, you punch the dough down to release the built up CO2, then set it somewhere warm to "proof" right before you bake. When proofing, you usually want to see the bread rise or grow in size. Proofing is best done at warm room temperature.


Before actually starting the stollen, I'm going to need to make the candied citrus peel. I have 5 beautiful oranges here at the house, so I'm going to make candied orange peel. I used a recipe by David Lebowitz to make the candied peel, first blanching the peel, then boiling it in a sugar syrup to just below the soft-ball stage.







Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath. Serves 10-12 people
Ingredients
¼ cup water (110ยบ F)
1/2 oz active dry yeast
1 cup milk
5 oz unsalted butter
5½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup candied citrus peel
1 cup firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons rum
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup almond pieces
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting wreath

Before you start, soak the raisins in a small bowl with the rum and set aside.
To make the dough, pour 1/4 cup warm water into a small bowl (water at 110 will be warm to the touch, but not scalding), sprinkle with the yeast and allow to stand for about 5 minutes. This softens the yeast enough to allow you to stir to dissolve. You should soon see that the yeast begins to bubble.




In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Let stand a few minutes to cool. In the meantime, lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add citrus (I used lemon) and vanilla extracts.

In the large bowl of your stand mixer, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. Then, on low, mix in (using the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Add in the candied citrus peel, dried fruits and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. On a lightly floured counter (or in the mixing bowl using a dough hook), knead the dough to distribute the fruit evenly.
video

This should take about 6-8 minutes. (A good way to tell when the dough is well blended is that some of the raisins on the outside will start to fall off the top of the dough because it is no longer sticky enough to hold them on.) Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight (or up to a week) to rise slowly and develop flavor.

Be sure you allow yourself about 5 consecutive hours for the final portion. Once you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature for 2 hours to warm slightly. Punch the dough down, dump it out of the bowl and onto the counter. Roll into a rectangle, approximately 16 x 24 inches. (It should be about 1/4" thick.)

Starting on one long side, begin rolling the dough into a 24" tightly rolled log.

Transfer the log to a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan and join the ends together to make a circle. Use your fingers to pinch the ends together to join them well. Going around the circle, cut slashes about 2/3 way through approximately every 2 inches around the circle to resemble a wreath.

Set the wreath aside to "proof" for about 2 hours at warm room temperature. After this time, it should have expanded to about 1 1/2 times the original size. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, then bake for another 20-30 minutes. When done, the top should be dark golden brown and the internal temperature register 190 degrees. Transfer to cooling rack and brush with melted butter while still warm. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. (This butter/sugar process can be repeated multiple times. Each coat protects the stollen and prolongs the freshness.)



This stollen travels easily, keeps well and is FANTASTIC toasted with a smear of butter. Even better still alongside a cup o' joe. We have been eating off of it for days and no one could resist. This may become a new holiday tradition in the Durham home!!