Monday, 27 December 2010

December 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge - Christmas Stollen

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’ demonstration.

I was so pleased when this month's challenge was revealed, as I'd been keeping everything crossed that we might get to make stollen since last year! I needed to do some Christmas baking to help get me into a more festive mood, and this would solve my dilemma of what to give friends as gifts :-D

We were asked to start off with the recipe provided and, realising that this would make one huuuge stollen that would no way fit in my oven, I split the dough into two smaller (but still huge) loaves.

The first was served up to my Mama & Me group when we met for our final session before Christmas. I was disappointed that the bread seemed a little dry (just served as is) in spite of being served freshly baked, and could have done with more fruit. The second loaf was served at our church's Christmas worship service, and I sent it along (I had to stay at home with a poorly little girl) sliced and smothered with butter - a massive improvement! ;-)

My second batch of stollen was made using 200g raisins, 150g dried cranberries and 100g marons glaces (crystallised chestnuts), and I also used mikan (mandarin orange) in place of the orange zest/juice. The recipe made 4 very large, regular-shaped stollen, which were baked and delivered on Christmas morning.

Sadly, I didn't get to taste this version (I should have made the loaves a bit smaller so that I could have had one too!) and I'm still awaiting a verdict.

Much thanks to Penny for hosting this month's challenge, for helping me to feel much more Christmassy, and for choosing a recipe that I will now look forward to baking each year from now!

Christmas Stollen Wreath

Preparation time:

The following times are approximate. I suggest you gather and scale/weigh/measure (mise en place) all your ingredients before you begin mixing.
• Approximately 1 hour first stage – then rest overnight or up to 3 days
• 2 hours to warm up after refrigeration
• 15 minutes shaping
• 2 hours proofing
• 30-45 minutes baking
Equipment required:

• Mixer with dough hook or strong arms and hands
• Mixing bowl
• Bowl to soak raisins
• Small saucepan
• Sheet of plastic or plastic wrap to cover when proofing
• Bench or pastry scraper (very handy for cutting dough and also cleaning work surface)
• Rolling pin
• Dough whisk can be handy but not necessary
• Pastry Brush
• A scale is really important to have when making bread so I strongly advise you to get one. You do not have to have one though. (would make a good Christmas gift!)
• Sheet Pan or round Pizza pan
• Parchment Paper
Stollen Wreath

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.

Soak the raisins
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.

To make the dough

Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.

In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.

Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

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. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!

When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style. The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm

The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday, 16 December 2010


I have just taken M for her very first haircut ever...

She is delighted - it is I who has been traumatised by this event! Sob sob...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


How about heading down to your local Aeon shopping centre to check out what is on offer...

You reckon that looks good? Well, for a start, it's plastic (in case you're an overseas reader, this is quite normal). But that's not what I'm getting at! Look closer! Do you see what I see?

Why yes, that IS a dead cockroach! Not hungry any more? Me neither. Actually, I spotted this just a week after we spotted large cockroaches running around the sushi shop just a few doors down! Back home, these shops would be shut down immediately. Not here. Cockroaches are everywhere and are generally ignored. We didn't even get an apology after having asked a staff member to get rid of the two nasty beasts under our table - oh, to have had Gordon Ramsay dining with us that evening!

Sorry if I put you off your lunch.

Perhaps this'll make you smile:

It's a children's bowling ball :-)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sew much fun

I have a brand new nephew! He arrived in the early hours of November 28th, and oh how I wish I could meet him and have a cuddle!

Waaay back, as soon as I heard that my sister's family would be welcoming a new addition, I signed up for Kelly's {Make} A Bag Sew Along. Having recently acquired a sewing machine, I was smitten with the idea of making Kelly's bag and accessories as a 'baby bag', something cheerful for carrying nappies, wipes, goodies for big bro' and the like. Now, I am a complete beginner who barely knows how to thread the machine, but Kelly's tutorial instructions are so detailed and easy to understand that even I could follow along (just don't ask me how many times I sewed fabric pieces together the wrong way round)! And in doing so, I picked up so many techniques that by the end of the project I was even brave enough to create an extra item all by myself (sorry, I spend all my waking hours with a 3 year old by my side!).

I chose bright, summery fabrics to match the season in Australia, but still managed to find coordinating Japanese prints. And look inside! It's lined and has pockets! (Can you tell how excited I am that I could ever make something like this?)

And here's a peep at what went inside:

And inside that:

I had a few strips of fabric left over, just enough to piece together a changing mat - OK, I confess that I rushed this a little and so it might not last the distance ;-)

I enjoyed this sew along so very much that I can't wait to join in another! I've definitely caught the sewing bug, no longer am I afraid of my machine... I am now even brave enough to crank up the speed dial :-D Following Kelly's beautifully presented instructions has given me a new found confidence, and I can see myself making patchwork covers for anything that might gather dust in the house (watch out kids)!