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Stollen is a sweet yeasted bread flavored with bits of fruit, served at Christmas and known for its keeping qualities. A native of Germany and Austria, and connected with Dresden in particular, stollen is a must at every holiday groaning board in those countries.
Because of stollen's high sugar content, we find you'll make a better loaf by beginning with an overnight sponge. This bubbly mixture of yeast, flour and water is a good base upon which the sugar, milk, and butter-rich stollen can successfully grow.
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup candied cherries, coarsely chopped*
2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
*The easiest way to chop candied cherries, which tend to be very sticky, is by snipping each in half with a pair of scissors.
Sponge: Combine the flour, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl, stirring till smooth. (Or use your bread machine, canceling the machine after several minutes of mixing.) Let the mixture rest overnight at room temperature.
Dough: Add the flour, butter, egg, milk, sugar, salt, yeast, almond extract, and vanilla to the sponge. Stir to combine, then knead thoroughly, using your hands, an electric mixer, a food processor or a bread machine, till the dough is very smooth and supple. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl (or leave it in the bread machine), cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. It probably won't double in bulk, but will become puffy.
While the dough is rising, stir together the dates, raisins, cherries, flour and almonds. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly greased work surface. Knead the fruit into the dough till it's well-distributed; a good way to do this is to pat or roll the dough into a rough 12 x 15-inch rectangle, press the fruit and nuts evenly over its surface, then roll it up like a jelly roll, starting with a long edge. Divide the roll into two pieces, shape each piece into a rough 9-inch log, cover the logs, and let them rest for 10 minutes.
Pat each log into a 10 x 8-inch oval. The fruit may try to "fall out" of the dough; that's OK, just stick it back in. Fold each oval lengthwise, bringing one side over the other but leaving a 1-inch gap, as if you were making a Parker House roll (in other words, fold the dough not quite in half). Press the edge of the top half to seal it to the bottom half, tent the dough with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until it's noticeably puffy.
Bake the stollen in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. The finished loaves should be golden brown, and their internal temperature should register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the stollen from the oven, and brush them with melted butter. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. When the stollen are cool, dust them heavily with confectioners' sugar. Yield: Two stollen, about 14 servings each
Note: For a more traditional stollen, substitute 1/2 cup candied peel, citron or angelica for the 1/2 cup chopped dates.
Nutrition information per serving (1-inch slice, 43g): 138 cal, 4g fat, 3g protein, 17g complex carbohydrates, 6g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 16mg cholesterol, 101mg sodium, 101mg potassium, 27RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 40mg calcium, 44mg phosphorus.