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.
I have to admit that I have never tried any variety of fruitcake. I know that there are different versions of fruitcake for different cultures, but until this challenge I hadn't tried any of them. I was a little leery of fruitcakes in general since they are so often disdained and joked about, but I am willing to try almost anything once so I was ready for the challenge.
The first thing I decided was that I wasn't going to buy the candied fruit. Not only was I going to make the candied orange peel, which seemed simple enough to do myself, but I was also going to make my own Glacé Cherries rather than buy a package of the loaded-with-artificial-flavors-colors-preservatives-and-chemicals variety. It wasn't until after I decided to go that route that I realized that doing so would add a week to my prep time. Apparently making candied cherries is a slow process. Nevertheless, I felt that it would be worth it and followed through ending up with not only a large bunch of candied cherries, which was much more than the dozen the recipe called for as optional (oops, didn't catch that part until much later) but also a pot full of mildly cherry flavored sugar syrup. I set the syrup aside for another use (which I will talk about another day) and continued with the Stollen.
The candied orange peel was quite simple to do and I am sorry I only made two oranges worth. I used most of it in the Stollen and there isn't any more left to snack on. Of course since it was so easy to make it will be no trouble to make another batch. I didn't try any of them dipped in chocolate because I liked them to much the way they were to change anything.
In the Daring Bakers forums I picked up quite a few tips as to flavor variations as well as assembly, and I am quite happy with the ones I chose to implement. For the most part I used the recipe as written, but I did make a few adjustments. For example, raisins? Not happening in something I bake. Raisins are okay plain, or dipped in chocolate, or mixed into a trail mix, but once you start cooking them and making them all weird and squishy I am gone. Instead of adding the raisins I added an equal weight of my previously mentioned plethora of candied cherries (yes, I know they are also squishy, but since they aren't raisins for some reason it doesn't bother me. I can't explain it so don't ask.) I didn't want to lose the flavor and moisture that the rum was supposed to add with the soaked raisins but I didn't have any rum, so I just mixed an equal amount of blackberry brandy in when I was adding the chopped fruit and nuts.
One of the tips I read was regarding the mix-ins. It was suggested that by only adding half of them during the mixing process and the remainder after the dough had risen and been rolled out, you allowed the fruit to avoid being smashed and deformed and it was easier to roll out the dough. I followed this advice, mixing in only half of the chopped and candied orange peel, the slivered almonds, and the chopped glacé cherries. When it came time, I rolled out the dough with a little bit of flour to prevent sticking (wow, did it get big!) and sprinkled on the remaining chopped fruit and nuts. I wanted to experiment a bit with the flavor so I added about 1/2 a cup of mini chocolate chips and about 6 oz of almond marzipan pinched off into small pieces so that it would be evenly distributed. The dough looked very full before I started rolling it up.
I was thrilled with how this turned out. None of the individual steps were time consuming or hard, but since some items required several days to complete this is not the kind of recipe you can start on a whim and finish in one day. My mother in law said after tasting it that not only was it delicious but that "it is an experience." Coming from a die hard chocolate fan that is saying a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed the Stollen, and might not be so hesitant to try another type of fruitcake in the future. Right now I am trying to decide between turning the last few pieces into french toast or bread pudding. Of course, if I keep stealing tastes that will eventually become a moot point. Thank you Daring Bakers for the lovely challenge!
Please visit the Daring Kitchen for the original recipe and don't forget to see how everyone else tweaked their version of this Stollen. Enjoy!