Our December cooking column, part II of a fantastic collection of gifty cookbooks (see part I here), includes four spectacular collections of great meals. For the foodies and gourmands on your gift list, they're great, but Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Breatherton is one of those books I'd have to keep for myself!

And this recipe is one I just might have to add to my holiday dessert list . . .

Stollen


This rich, fruity sweet bread, originally from Germany, is traditionally served at Christmas and makes a great alternative to Christmas cakes or pies.

Serves 12
Prep time 30 minutes
Oven time 50 minutes
Keeps up to 4 weeks

Soaking time
overnight

Rising and proofing time
2-3 hours

Ingredients


  • 1 1/4 cup (7oz) raisins

  • 3/4 cups (4oz) currants)

  • 1/3 cup rum

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

  • 1 (1/4oz / 10g) package dried yeast

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • few drops of pure vanilla extract

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

  • 7oz (200g) mixed candied citrus peel

  • 1 cup (4oz) ground almonds

  • confectioner's sugar, for dusting


Method

1. Put the raisins and currants into a medium bowl, pour in the rum, and leave the ingredients to soak overnight.

2. The following day, sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center, sprinkle in the yeast, and add 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Gently heat the milk until lukewarm and pour on top of the yeast. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, or until frothy.

3. Add the rest of the sugar, the vanilla extract, salt, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, and butter. Using a wooden spoon, or electric mixer with a dough hook, mix, then knead the ingredients together for 5 minutes, or until they form a smooth dough.

4. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Add the candied peel, soaked raisins and currants, and almonds, kneading for a few minutes until incorporated. Return the dough to the bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

5. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to make a 12 x 10in (30 x 25cm) rectangle. Fold 1 long side over, just beyond the middle, then fold over the other long side to overlap the first, curling it over slightly on top to create the stollen shape. Transfer to the baking sheet, and put in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size.

6. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then generously dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve cut into thick slices, with or without butter.

Store
The stollen will keep in an airtight container for 4 days.

Baker's Tip
Stollen can be made with any combination of dried fruits. It can be plain, as in this recipe, or stuffed with a marzipan or frangipane layer. Any leftovers are great for breakfast, lightly toasted, with butter.

Excerpted from Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Breatherton (DK). Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.

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