Today, I baked bread!
“There comes a point in your life when you need to stop eating other people’s bread and make your own!”– Chris Geiger
I love homemade bread…
The process of creation that cannot be rushed
The smell of yeast when it hits lukewarm liquid, kneading, rising, shaping, rising again, the fragrance that fills the house as it’s baking…
It’s a labor of love
My Grandpa Bush was a baker. He painstakingly taught me to bake. We baked a lot together. Bread, cakes. He also taught me to decorate with buttercream – roses and all.
Grandpa loved baking cookies as well, and taught me – the jar on the counter was always full.
I didn’t inherit the love of baking cookies gene – that went to my sis Linda. But bread and cake are my loves.
Grandma baked as well – her specialties in the bread department were rolls. Her icebox rolls were amazing either baked as rolls or sticky cinnamon buns. Her crescent rolls were divine and a Thanksgiving staple. Both recipes take overnight to make and are definitely worth the wait.
But Grandma’s greatest skill was in her pies and cooking. She was the pie baker and cook extraordinaire. She tried to teach me how to weave elaborate pie tops and make all types of filling that didn’t run all over the plate. But, again, not my best skill.
I can bake pies, however, they leave a lot to be desired when judged next to my grandma’s pastry skills. I can make her cherry pudding recipe though… it’s a doozy with no measurements – but only because I made it with her quite a few times and remember how the batter is supposed to feel.
But, I digress…
back to bread
The only kind of bread I can’t get the hang of baking is sourdough – all attempts so far have been dismal failures!
The bread I made today is special and evokes good memories of Christmas’ past.
I’ve had the recipe since the early 1980s. One of the few things I carried with me from my previous life (besides my children), it came from my favorite brother-in-law Phil’s boyfriend Rolf. Phil was a very kind soul and Rolf was a chef. His food was amazing and his bread divine.
Upon deciding to make it last weekend, I couldn’t find the ingredient list in my recipe box and nearly cried. Then I remembered that long ago I submitted it to the church cookbook! Voila!
I’ve made this stollen recipe so many times through the years that the original recipe is probably unreadable anyway!
My dad really liked it, and I do as well.
Here’s the recipe:
Christmas Fruit Bread – Dresdner Stollen
½ C Seedless Raisins
½ C Dried Currants
1 C Mixed Candied Citrus Peel
¼ C candied angelica, cut into ¼” pieces
½ C candied cherries, halved
½ C rum
¼ C lukewarm water
2 pkg yeast
¾ C plus a pinch of sugar
5 ½ C plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 C Milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp finely grated lemon peel
2 eggs (room temperature)
¾ C unsalted butter cut into ¼ inch bits and softened
8 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
1 C blanched slivered almonds ¼ C Confectioners’ Sugar
Combine the raisins, currants, candied citrus peel, angelica, and cherries in a bowl. Pour the Rum over the preceding mixture, tossing the fruit about to coat the pieces evenly. Soak at least one hour.
Pour the lukewarm water into a small bowl and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let the mixture stand for two to three minutes, then stir to dissolve the yeast completely. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free place (such as a turned off oven) for about five minutes, or until the mixture almost doubles in volume.
Meanwhile, drain the fruit, reserving rum, and carefully pat the pieces completely dry with paper towels. Place the fruit in a bowl: sprinkle with two tablespoons of flour and turnabout until the flour is completely absorbed. Set aside.
In a heavy 1 ½ to 2 quart sauce pan, combine the milk, ½ cup of the sugar, and the salt. Heat to lukewarm, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, stir in reserved rum, almond extract, fresh lemon peel, and finally the yeast mixture.
Place five cups of the flour into a large bowl and, with a fork, stir in the yeast mixture a cup or so at a time. Beat the eggs until frothy and stir into the dough, then beat in the bits of softened butter.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a board sprinkled with the remaining ½ cup flour. Knead the dough by pushing it down with the heels of your hands and pressing it forward then folding it back on itself. Continue kneading for about 15 minutes, or until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic. Flour your hands lightly from time to time.
Now press the fruit and almonds into the dough, 1/3 cup or so at a time, but do not knead or handle it too much or the dough will discolor.
Coat a deep bowl with 1 tsp of the melted butter and drop in the dough. Brush the top of the dough with another tsp of melted butter. Drape a towel over the bowl and set in a warm, draft-free place for two hours, or until doubled in bulk.
Punch the dough down and divide it into two equal pieces. Let rest for 10 minutes, then roll the pieces into strips about 12 inches long, eight inches wide, and ½ inch thick.
Brush each strip with two tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle each with two tablespoons of sugar.
Fold each strip lengthwise in the following fashion: Bring one long side over the center of the strip and press the edge down lightly, the fold the other long side across it – overlapping the seam in the center by about one inch. Press the edge gently to keep it in place.
With lightly floured hands, taper the ends of the loaf slightly and pat the sides together gently to mound it in the center. The finished loaf should be 3 ½ – 4 inches wide and 13 inches long.
With a pastry brush and I tablespoon melted butter, coat the bottom of an 11×17 inch jellyroll pan. Place the loaves on the pan and brush them with the remaining two tablespoons of melted butter. Set the loaves aside in a warm, draft-free place for about one hour or until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crusty. Transfer the loaves to wire racks to cool completely. Just before serving, sprinkle the loaves with the sifted confectioners’ sugar.
Makes two 13” loaves.
Dresdner Stollen, which improves with age, is a Christmas bread exchanged throughout Germany as a holiday season gift.
As you can see, there is a piece missing – the end of the last loaf broke off as I was removing it from the pan.
Bill seized the opportunity to taste the broken piece and declared it a success.
He said that he was very surprised at how much he liked it – it’s heavy like fruitcake, but not soaked, and it’s also not cakey like Panettone.
My plain food loving meat and potatoes husband is turning into quite the food critic.
Someday he’ll get used to flavorful food, I just know it!
I think I’ll ask Santa for just that…
XO Lisa ❤️