Friday, December 24, 2010
Daring Bakers December Challenge
You probably didn't notice (or did you?), but I skipped a month of Daring Bakers Challenges. With family visiting and Thanksgiving to plan, I just couldn't wrap my head around it. But I'm back! The December challenge was relatively easy, fun to make, and delicious: Christmas Stollen. Basically, this is a yeasted sweet bread, filled with candied fruit and dusted with powdered sugar. The host for this month's challenge, Penny from Sweet Sadie's Baking, explained in the notes that the loaf is traditionally shaped to represent the baby Jesus, though her directions specify a wreath shape. I would have been a little creeped out to hack into and eat something shaped like a baby. But maybe that's just me.
The stollen was delicious. So much so that I was relieved to be able to take it to a holiday party to which C and I were invited. How better to dispose of a delicious sweet bread loaf of 10-12 servings than to take it to a party and foist it on other people? Otherwise, C and I would likely have stayed home with it for days, shaving off thin slices repeatedly and trying to convince ourselves that we had not eaten enough to qualify as a serving, even as the loaf steadily dwindles and disappears. It would have been ugly. I might have stopped going to the gym, and become to altogether disoriented from the constant influx of sugar and white flour that my senses might have gone completely out of whack. I might have started gargling with olive oil and brushing my teeth with marzipan. I might have required an intervention that wouldn't come because C would have been collapsed under a pile of stale cookies with his cell phone just out of reach. I'm not going to lie to you, dear readers. Our lives are hard.
Anyway, though it looks pretty fussy, this loaf was pretty easy to make. The only extra step involved candying citrus peel. Because why buy pre-made citrus peel when it's quite easy to candy your own? I had already done something close to this when I made the orange marmelade for my first ever Daring Bakers challenge. Luckily, that stuff lasts forever. I'm just a tad ashamed to admit it, but I think we might have a small jar of it kicking around the fridge. Basically, you slice the orange peel, blanch it three times, and then cook it in syrup until the peel absorbs all the sugar. Then you roll it in powdered sugar and let it dry. This candied peel is then chopped and added to the buttery dough along with rum-soaked dried fruit (I used cherries). Once the dough is assembled, it hangs in the fridge for up to a week (I let it go three days) before shaping, final proofing, and baking.
Now that I've had it, I can see why this sort of thing makes such excellent Christmas gifts. The stollen is sweet, tender, and flaky, but also quite sturdy. It apparently ships well as the post-baking bastings of butter (well, vegan margarine) and sugar act as a kind of preservative. If you're a fan of sweet breads and have time to make your own, please consider forgoing the inevitable holiday panettone and try this instead. Seriously, bread in a box at the grocery store? What's that about? Incidentally, if you are now fired by the passion of a thousand suns and just know that you have to make your own stollen like right. freaking. now, send me a message or email me and I'll give you the vegan lowdown for enterprising stollen bakers. It is well worth the effort.
Posted by Marla at 2:32 PM