The stollen I enjoy each holiday season is not homemade. It’s an import from Germany that’s filled with raisins and marzipan, and because of its long trek it can also be described as – dry. I’ve come to love the flavor of this bread and count its virtues instead of its imperfections, however, I felt like I was missing out on something. This year I wanted to taste fresh stollen.
I was fully on board to make the traditional version which requires yeast and all the time constraints that come with it – until I found a recipe for ‘Easiest’ stollen from King Arthur Flour. I read the instructions twice through and returned my bag of SAF Red to the refrigerator.
I was sold on this version for two reasons: I had all the base ingredients in my pantry and the end result is quick. I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking at night lately, and that’s when I ended up making these loaves – at around 10 p.m. You can’t really start yeast bread at that hour unless you’re prepared to be awake for four more hours, at least.
The method used to mix the dough reminds me of making scones or southern biscuits. You cut the fat into the flour, then add the wet ingredients, then add the mix-ins. A wet ingredient in the recipe is ricotta cheese. It gives the baked bread moisture and richness. I made these loaves with natural orange flavoring, blanched slivered almonds and dried cranberries. The base recipe can be endlessly varied with your favorite flavoring, fruit and nut mixture.
Whenever a bread recipe calls for dough to be rolled to a certain size, I always lightly flour a work surface and then draw the measurement in the flour with my finger. I patted this dough ball out to an 8×7 oval.
I ended up folding the bread like the traditional yeast stollen, and it worked well. Just make two indentations in the dough with a wooden spoon handle, then fold it back onto itself accordion-style.
Fold the dough backward at the first crease, and forward on the second.
Traditional stollen has marzipan filling. If you have marzipan on hand, you could certainly pipe a line of it between the folds.
I flattened the dough just a little bit after folding it. This made it lose a bit of its signature stollen shape, but having never made the recipe before I needed extra insurance that it would bake evenly (no undercooked centers on my watch!).
For decoration, I punched out fondant in tiny star shapes. I wish I’d had marzipan because that is the usual stollen filling (next time!). I placed the stars on the bread before dusting it generously with confectioners’ sugar, and then I used a toothpick to remove some of the stars to create a pretty pattern.
The end result? A bread that is dense with fruit and nuts in the way my imported stollen is, yet not dry. Admittedly, the texture is different from traditional stollen (which remains on my bake list), but it’s one of the best quick breads I’ve ever made. I especially love that it makes two generous loaves; one for our breakfast, and another for a friend.
Easy Cranberry Orange Stollen
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup 8 tablespoons cold butter
- 1 cup ricotta cheese part-skim milk type
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into small chunks, and then blend it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender (or a fork) to form uneven crumbs.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, vanilla, orange extract and zest.
- Toss the cranberries and almonds with the flour mixture until evenly distributed. Then combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing until most of the flour is moistened.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead it two or three times, until it holds together. Divide it in half. Roll each piece of dough into an 8″ x 7″ oval about 1/2-inch thick.
- Using a wooden spoon handle, press two indentions into the rolled dough, so that the dough is divided evenly into three sections (see blog post step pictures). Don’t press all the way through! You just want to make a line in the dough. Fold the dough onto itself accordion style: fold the dough backward at the first crease, and then forward at the second. Gently press the layers together, but do not flatten loaves.
- Place the shaped stollen on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the stollen till they are very lightly browned around the edges, about 40 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Remove the stollen from the oven, and transfer to a rack until just warm. Sprinkle heavily with confectioners’ sugar.
- Alternate topping: To make a sugar crust on top, brush the loaves with melted butter and then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Repeat the buttering/ sugaring so that the loaves have two coats. Wrap the cooled loaves in plastic wrap. Well-kept stollen will keep for 2 weeks at room temperature