A few weeks ago I confessed to my problems with yeast bread. Many kind and helpful readers wrote in, some telling me about their own yeast troubles, some offering valuable advice for overcoming my yeast-challenged ways. This week I'm trying out a recipe for stollen bread, which my mom made every Christmas morning when I was growing up. (This was delicious but also confusing, since in my child's mind it was called "stolen bread," which didn't jibe with my mother's honest character.)
Thanks to Balmoral's Janet Meads, Glenboro's Linda Snider, Anita Miller and Anna Stein. The recipes they sent in used very similar ingredients and techniques, so I've combined some of their best aspects. (Linda's recipe puts marzipan in the middle for added flavour, while Anna's version brilliantly advocates plumping the raisins in brandy.) I've also included a recipe for stollen scones from baking maven Rose Levy Berenbaum, which I used to get the flavour of stollen while neatly avoiding the yeast issue. These are tender, rich and a good option when you're pressed for time.
Doreen Schafer would love a recipe for bierocks, yeast buns filled with ground meat and cabbage that the German side of her family makes every Christmas, and another reader has requested a recipe for a self-icing spice cake. Please keep the holiday recipes and requests coming in. We're looking for cookies for the 12 Days of Cookies, but we'll also welcome other festive dishes for the regular recipe swap column.
If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
310 ml (11/4 cup) whole milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) white sugar, plus 5 ml (1 tsp)
2 packages instant yeast (16 g or 41/2 tsp)
2 eggs, beaten
about 1125 ml (5 cups) all-purpose flour, divided
7 ml (11/2 tsp) salt
pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
114 g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
250 ml (1 cup) raisins, plumped for a few minutes in warm brandy and then drained
125 ml (1/2 cup) mixed glace citrus peel
125 ml (1/2 cup) glace cherries, chopped
125 ml (1/2 cup) slivered almonds, lightly toasted
5 ml (1 tsp) lemon peel, grated
1 egg white, beaten
about 125 g (1/2 cup) marzipan or almond paste, rolled into 2 long ropes
In a small saucepan, heat milk with 5 ml (1 tsp) sugar until 43-46C (110-115F). Remove from heat, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 10 minutes. (Mixture should foam to indicate that the yeast is active.) Stir in eggs. In separate large bowl, whisk together 750 ml (3 cups) flour, sugar, salt and spices. Stir in milk mixture until well blended. Drop in softened butter and continue mixing until blended. Gradually stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough, turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 10-12 minutes, gradually adding up to 45 ml (3 tbsp) more flour if needed, until dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly dust with flour, cover and let rest for 5 minutes while you stir together drained plumped raisins, mixed peel, cherries, almonds and grated lemon peel in a small bowl. Flatten dough into a rectangle, sprinkle one-half with half the fruit mixture and cover with the other half of dough. Knead until evenly distributed, about 4 minutes, let rest 5 minutes, and then repeat with remaining fruit mixture. Place dough in large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes. Punch down dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a 20cm (8 in) log. Roll out each log to 1 cm (1/2 in) thickness, leaving a 2.5 cm (1 in) border along long top and bottom unrolled. Brush with egg white, place a rope of marzipan in the middle, and fold bottom and top edges toward middle, aligning raised borders side by side. Place on a large baking sheet that has been greased and floured or prepared with cooking spray. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise 60 minutes. Bake at 175C (350F) for 30-45 minutes or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to cool on rack. If desired brush warm loaves with melted butter and dust with icing sugar.
Tester's notes: It worked! It worked! My loaves were sweet with a hint of spice and richly dense but not heavy. I'm not exactly a master bread-maker, but at least I'm heading in the right direction. Thanks to everyone for the valuable tips, including Lorraine Best, Gwen Letke and Janet Shum. Some of the things I've learned: Always use a thermometer to check the temperature of the yeast. (My initial idea of "warm" was shy of the optimum temperature for activating yeast.) Janet, who has taught bread-making in 4H, advises adding flour gradually: The amount needed can vary for all sorts of reasons and touch is really the best gauge, she says. Anita says it's important to mix the liquid and the initial amount of flour really well, and she uses her electric mixer. I immediately got out my machine, along with the bread hook I've never used, and it worked wonders. I'm really starting to see appeal of bread-making — the warm yeasty smells, the physicality of the kneading and the delicious, satisfying results.
(adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
175 ml (3/4 cup) whipping cream
10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
75 ml (1/3 cup) light brown sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) salt
3 ml (3/4 tsp) ground ginger
2 ml (1/2 tsp) each cinnamon, allspice, anise
pinch each of cloves and mace
5 ml (1 tsp) each grated lemon and orange rind
170 g (3/4 cup) butter, cold, and cut into small cubes
Using an electric mixer, whip cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, stir in vanilla and place in the fridge until needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, spices and citrus rind. Cut in butter, using a pastry cutter, two knives or working quickly with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add whipped cream and stir with a rubber spatula just until dough is moistened. Knead in the bowl just until dough comes together, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 8 times. Shape into a ball. Cut in half, shape each half into a disc about 15 cm (6 in) in diameter and chill discs, wrapped in plastic, for 1 hour. At the 30-minute mark, place a baking stone or flat baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 205C (400F). When the dough is chilled, use a sharp knife to cut each disc into 8 wedges. Brush with whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar. Place wedges on baking sheets that have been greased and floured and bake one sheet at a time — keeping the other chilled — on the hot baking stone or sheet for about 15 minutes. (Check at the 10-minute mark and turn sheet around, if needed, for even browning.) Do not overbake.
Tester's notes: It's best to cut these scones small because they are very buttery and rich. If you're in a hurry, you can add the cream without whipping it, but this step adds lightness. I also suspect that you can get away without the trouble of preheating a baking stone, but it does give a nice crust. Do watch in the final minutes of baking as the cream and sugar topping can scorch easily.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.