Sarabeth Levine is known as the Grande Dame of Manhattan bakers. I was lucky enough to work with her on her first cookbook, SARABETH'S BAKERY: FROM MY HANDS TO YOURS, which quickly established itself as a must-have for anyone who wants to learn how to bake her famous specialties. One of the many baked goods that no one bakery makes better is her holiday stollen, a buttery sweet bread studded with rum-soaked raisins, dried fruits, and nuts. The traditional Christmas bread of German-speaking countries, commercial versions abound, but there is nothing like her home-baked stollen. Maybe I'll bring a loaf or two to the Christmas Eve party I'm attending. What do I mean "maybe"? (As for this photo...do not eat the holly!) Here's the recipe.
Makes 2 loaves
1/2 cup seedless raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce compressed yeast, crumbled, or 3 3/4 teaspoons (1 1/2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) milk, plus more as needed
2 1/2 cups bread flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, well-softened, plus more for the bowl
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup (1/2-inch) diced dried apricots
1/4 cup (1/2-inch) diced dried pears
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (see page XXX)
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 Plumped Vanilla Bean (see page XXX) or 1/2 unsoaked vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed with the tip of a small knife
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. The day before baking the stollen, prepare the rum raisins. Place the raisins in a heatproof bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand until the raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Return to the bowl. Add the rum and vanilla and toss together. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours. The raisins should be moist, but not soggy. If necessary, pat dry before proceeding. (As a timesaver, I have also soaked the raisins in water, drained, then microwaved in the rum for 30 seconds, and cooled them.)
2. To bake the stollen, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk in the work bowl of a standing heavy-duty mixer. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and stir well to make a sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the remaining flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt, and almond extract. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed just until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the rum raisins, apricots, cherries, pears, pecans, pecans, lemon and orange zests, and mix until they are incorporated into the dough. The dough will color to a pale brown from the addition of the fruit.
4. Gather up the dough and shape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large bowl (there is no need to butter the bowl for this rich dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Very gently shape each portion of dough into a ball--do not knead the dough, as you want to retain its light texture. Place the balls on the floured work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 1 hour.
6. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Press one ball into a thick round about 7 1/2 inches in diameter. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom. Starting about two-thirds up from the bottom, using your thumbs, firmly press a deep semi-circular trough in the dough, reaching almost through the dough. This trough will disappear when the stollen is baked, but serves to keep the two halves from separating during rising and baking. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes.
7. Position racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Uncover the loaves and bake, switching the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back, until deep golden brown, almost walnut-colored, about 35 minutes. The stollen may look a shade darker than you might expect, but do not underbake them. Remove from the oven and let stand on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
8. To coat the stollen, place the granulated in a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish. Squeeze the liquefied seeds from the plumped vanilla bean into the sugar and discard the bean. Mix the sugar and vanilla seeds with your hands until combined. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over small heat until the butter melts and comes to a boil. Pour the melted butter into a small bowl, leaving the milk solids behind in the saucepan.
9. In two applications, brush the loaves all over with the melted butter. Roll each loaf in the vanilla sugar to coat well and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle any remaining vanilla sugar over the tops of the loaves. Let cool completely. Generously sift confectioner’s sugar over the loaves.