I spent last Christmas in Wisconsin with my boyfriend’s family, and of all the wonderful things we cooked and ate, the hands-down winner in my book was a Stollen from a bakery in Lodi, WI. The dough was soft and challah-like, the marzipan center generous, and the pecan and candied cherry-studded icing irresistibly sweet. Unfortunately, the Stollen was so irresistible that between the 5 of us, we managed to polish off 2 whole loaves in under 2 days.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe fully in the satisfaction that only accompanies a taste of the “real thing”, but the combination of guilt and skyrocketing blood sugar, not to mention the hangover from the warm whiskeys fortified with “Tom and Jerry” mix left me feeling a bit blue post-holiday.
This year, I have resolved to build a new and improved Stollen. Packed with dried organic cherries and Himalayan Hunza Raisins, this primarily whole wheat loaf will leave you happy, healthy, and satisfied this holiday season. Even if you eat the entire thing.
Whole Wheat Stollen
For the fruit:
2 C. dried fruit of your choice. Try cherries, raisins, apricots, currants, or pineapple. If necessary, cut into bite-sized pieces.
1/2 C. brandy, cognac, or wine of your choice
Juice of one organic orange (you will need to zest this very orange shortly, so be gentle)
Bring the alcohol and orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan and add the dried fruit. Stir together and set aside, covered, to steep.
For the sponge:
Heat 3/4 C. nonfat milk in a small saucepan over low heat to around 110 degrees (think hot tub temperature). Pour into a large bowl and sprinkle in 2 packets of yeast. Stir together thoroughly and then add 1/2 C. unbleached flour. Stir everything together until well combined, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for about an hour. I heat my oven to 250 degrees and set the bowl on top of the oven, which seems to work fantastically. When ready, the sponge will have tripled in volume and should look quite foamy.
Next, add the following ingredients to the sponge mixture:
2 C. whole wheat flour
1/3 C. organic sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/2 stick soft butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
Zest of one organic lemon and one organic orange
3/4 C. chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but almonds, pecan, and hazelnuts are good choices, too)
Mix these ingredients together thoroughly using a wooden spoon until they form a ball. The dough should be moist, so if it seems dry, add a few more tablespoons or milk or water. Next, drain any extra liquid from the cherry and raisin mixture and stir in the soaked fruit. I use my hands to mix at this point, folding the dough over the fruit and nuts until they are mostly incorporated.
Now that you have made your dough, turn it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes until it becomes less “shaggy” and more “smooth” (see photos below). Next, return to the bowl (which you should grease with a bit of vegetable oil or butter), cover again with plastic or a towel, and return to the warm spot for 1-1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.
While the dough rises, prepare the almond filling. In the food processor, combine 1 C. raw almonds with 2 Tbsp. organic sugar, 2 Tbsp. water, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Run processor until it forms a paste. Alternatively, you can use 3/4 C. purchased almond butter and mix it with the sugar and cinnamon (no water is necessary).
Once the dough has risen adequately, turn it out of the bowl onto a sprinkling of flour and divide in 2 equal pieces. Pat each piece out into a roughly rectangular shape, approximately 10 by 5 inches. Brush each rectangle with an egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp. water) to help the almond filling stick to the dough. Sprinkle 1/2 of the almond mixture in the center of each rectangle. Spread out gently, leaving a 1 inch border of egg wash on all 4 sides. Fold the rectangle in half by pulling one 10 inch side toward the other and push the edges together to seal (see picture). The shape will be more like a crescent (think calzone).
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment or wax paper. Transfer the filled dough to the sheet, placing them seam side down and at least 3 inches apart (they will need room to rise again). Brush with remaining egg wash. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and set the stollen on the stovetop, covered with a damp towel, for 30-45 minutes more until slightly risen and puffy (this rising will go fast because your oven will be much warmer).
When risen, place in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 25-35 minutes longer, until well browned and cooked through (the toothpick test seems to work well).
Cool the loaves for a minimum of 2 hours, and then place each loaf in its own large plastic bag or tupperware container and sprinkle into each 1/2 C. powdered sugar. Gently shake the closed bag or container to coat the loaf. Let the loaf rest and hour and shake again, adding more powdered sugar if necessary or intriguing. The longer the loaves “rest” in between sugarings, the more moist their surfaces will become and therefore the more sugar they will take up.
To serve, slice the Stollen about 1 inch thick and microwave for 20-30 seconds. You can also toast the slices, but they stay more moist in the microwave. Plus, I’m a risk-taker. Spread with a little butter if you like and serve with coffee or tea.
The stollen will keep on the counter in a sealed container or bag, for at least one week. In the fridge, they should last up to 3 weeks. We ate one loaf throughout the week and froze the other.