Thursday 23 December 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge December 2010: Stollen Wreath

December is always a great month for the Daring Bakers challenges. I look forward to seeing what new seasonal treat we are presented with and past years have never failed to disappoint. This year was no exception – Stollen – a much loved German fruit bread, that is traditionally log shaped and filled with a centre core of marzipan. For this challenge we were also required to bake the Stollen in the shape of a wreath for a festive take on this classic.

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. As it’s the festive period we have been given a range of days we are allowed to post on – so I’m not breaking any rules by posting early this month!

Stollen is not something I consider a ‘must have’ at Christmas time, although it does often make an appearance in our household over the Christmas period. The thing I love most about Stollen is the sweet sticky centre of marzipan that runs though the middle. This particular recipe didn’t call for any marzipan, but I soon rectified this by adding a snake-like length of it to the centre of my wreath, as to me, the marzipan centre is what makes Stollen great.

This recipe involved quite a bit more work than I first anticipated. It requires a fruited and yeasted dough to be made a day ahead, before it is rolled out, rolled into a scroll, made into a wreath, slashed and baked. Although not complicated, all the little stages were quite time consuming but it was a fun way to spend a few hours.

This recipe makes a lot of dough and you end up with a huge thick wreath. Rolling the dough out flat was one of the biggest challenges, I don’t think I have ever attempted to roll out so much dough before, it really got the arm muscles working!

I made my Stollen gluten free by using a mixed gluten free flour blend from M&S. I used slightly less flour than the recipe stated as I am learning from experience that gluten free flours tend to absorb more moisture during baking than wheat flour and so I was careful not to add too much. I also replaced the candied peel with dried apricots as I couldn’t find a brand which didn’t list wheat as an ingredient. The resulting dough was very sticky but extremely attractive to look at, speckled with the purples, reds and oranges of the dried fruits. It also smelt delicious with the mingling of citrus zests, rum and spices.

I rolled the dough out in-between two layers of clingfilm which helped prevent it from sticking to the work surface and made rolling it into a log shape easier. Once assembled and baked I couldn’t wait to sample it. My first slice was still warm from the oven and it was light, soft and tender. The fruits were sweet and chewy and the marzipan soft and gooey. Delicious.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid to say that I had some later on in the evening and found that the Stollen had become quite dense and heavy. I gave it a quick burst in the microwave, which did help revive it. However, the following day it was also inedible. It had become very dry and dense, so much so that it was hard to slice and not enjoyable to eat. Stollen is a naturally dense and dried bread than most baked goods, but this was almost like a house brick. I’m afraid to say that I threw most of it in the bin. This upsets me as I hate to waste food and hardly ever throw anything away, especially when it contained so many tasty ingredients but it really did turn out to be a bit of a failure.

Looking back on it now I think I would do a few things differently. I would use even less gluten free flour, as I’m sure they helped suck the moisture out over time. I would also see if less baking time helped and I would also add some xanthan gum to try and give the bread a better rise and open texture. As I used gluten free flour there was no gluten to help support the gas bubbles created by the yeast – which I suspect led to the bread being heavy and dense. Oh well, gluten free baking is still a learning curve to me. It looked impressive, I had fun making it and I did enjoy that first slice.

Stollen Wreath
60ml lukewarm water (43ºC)
2 packages (14g) active dry yeast
240ml milk
140g unsalted butter
760g plain flour (I used 700g of a gluten free plain flour mix containing rice, potato, maize, tapioca & buckwheat flours)
115g caster sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract or orange extract
135g mixed peel (I used 100g dried apricots instead)
170g firmly packed raisins
3 tbsp rum (or orange juice if you prefer)
12 red glacé cherries, roughly chopped
100g flaked almonds

Melted butter for coating the wreath
Icing sugar for dusting the wreath

The Day Before
Soak the raisins in a small bowl with the rum or orange juice and set aside.
Pour the warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast, stir to dissolve and leave to stand until bubbling for 5-10 minutes.
In a small saucepan combine the milk and butter over a gentle heat until butter is melted. Leave to stand for 5 minutes until lukewarm.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add the lemon or orange and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. Stir in the yeast mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk-butter mixture. Mix with the help of a spatula for about 2 minutes until it forms a soft, slightly sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the mixed peel (I used chopped apricots), soaked raisins, cherries and almonds. Mix with your hands to incorporate, be gentle or the cherries will get very squished.
Sprinkle (gluten free) flour a work surface, turn out the dough and gently knead to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny. Knead for approximately 5 minutes (Gluten free dough will take less time as there is no gluten to develop). You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough as the dough will become tacky rather than sticky.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
The dough becomes very firm in the fridge and rises slowly. The raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

On Day of Baking
Remove the dough from the fridge and leave it to come back to room temperature, about 2 hours. Line a large square baking tray with greaseproof paper and set aside.
Generously dust a work surface with (gluten free) flour and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches and ¼ inch (5mm) thick. (My dough was still very sticky so I rolled it out between two sheets of clingfilm to make it easier).
(I also rolled out a long rope of marzipan at this point which I placed along the bottom edge and rolled the dough around, to encase it in the centre of the dough).
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle.
Use kitchen scissors to make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting half way through the dough.
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with clingfilm.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until puffy and risen. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the Stollen
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for a further 20-30 minutes. It should bake to a dark golden colour and sound slightly hollow when tapped.
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a thick layer of icing sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first as you want it coated generously with the icing sugar.
Leave to cool for at least an hour before transferring to a plate and serving. It will take 3-4 hours to cool down completely.
When completely cool, wrap the stollen and plate in clingfilm. Or, leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly – for a dry outer crust German style.
Makes one (very) large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves


Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

Aw, I'm sorry to hear that it didn't keep well. My one was better the next day and kept beautifully for probably about two weeks as I was eating it on my own piece by piece.
Do you think you will try it again to get the flours right?

Monica H said...

This is beautiful and I love that you added marzipan to the center of it. But it's a shame it dried out so quickly. I wonder if you could have made a bread pudding with the extras?

If I don't get back to you by Christmas, I hope you and your family have a wonderful day. Thanks so much for being such a great friend.

Blessings to you,

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A lovely wreath! Very well done. I'll post mine tomorrow...

Happy holidays!



Suelle said...

It's an expensive way to find out that all gluten-free baking isn't as simple as just swapping flour. Such a shame, as it looked so good too.

Chele said...

Loving the idea of a stollen wreath, looks wonderful! Merry Christmas to you and your fmaily Katie, have a fantastic time ;0)

Lish said...

What a pity that it ended in the bin - it looked so pretty!

Unknown said...

Sorry it didn't work out. I don't like stollen anyway, ate it somewhere once and it was similar to yours, dry and heavy! And no marzipan either :(