Ghosts of Stollen Past



I had a friend a number of years ago who baked stollen at Christmas and at Easter. Her recipe called for “hard spring wheat flour” and “oleo”. I understand that she often ground the flour herself in one of those little crank grinders that attach to the table or counter. She passed away in 1997 and I have the recipe. I helped make the stollen various times and tried it a few times on my own. It really isn’t easy. It involves a lot of kneading and rising.

This year I decided to give it another try and hybridize the recipe with my sister’s recommended stollen recipe, because hers involves booze and almond paste. My sister’s stollen is much more like the insane, sugary stollen they sold at Zingerman’s when I worked there in 1991 on Christmas break from college. I made it once, a little over a year ago, to thumb my nose at my department as I was being shown the door. “See, I’m nice. I bake for you.” Very dysfunctional. And I think I used Sambuca in the glaze, which was not such a good idea. My unfeeling colleagues ate it nonetheless.

Ginny’s recipe made stollen that was dense and very rustic, although I think she used the artificially dyed green and red fruit bits. I have fond memories of eating it at Easter one year. And not so fond memories of 163740_1663042068183_2630686_ngetting it for Christmas another year.  The last time I tried to make it myself was when I was on parental leave with my youngest, four years ago. I somehow managed to get the loaves to rise, but I recall they were a bit dry. The recipe makes three loaves. I did not weigh the loaves but the baby weighed 11 pounds at the time.

While I was looking for the recipe on my sister’s blog, I found her commenting on my inability to use recipes, which is true. I proceeded to ignore elements of both recipes. I have never had much urge to grind my own flour, hippie instincts not withstanding, but I used mostly whole wheat flour, not white bread flour as my sister would. I used duck eggs (which is not strictly speaking a violation of either recipe). I used butter instead of oleo and I used candied orange and lemon and currants instead of green and red fruit bits, raisins and currants. I used 1% milk, because it’s what I had handy (and I’m not certain what scalded milk is anyway). I guessed on the yeast ratios.

I was very excited to use my stand mixer, which is a relatively recent purchase. It’s an ancient Kitchen Aid that I found at goodwill a couple of months ago. According to information my husband found stamped on its innards, it was manufactured in 1976, making it older than one of my sisters. And it was actually made in the United States, IMG_1717probably by unionized workers. I don’t know if Ginny had a stand mixer, but I realized that as I was adding flour and fruit and my children were turning it on and off (and on. and off. and squeaking and jumping up and down) that in 1976, at least three of Ginny’s nine children were still at home. I tried to picture a stay at home mom in the 50s or 60s, making stollen while being swarmed by children. The mind boggles.

I divided the stollen into three, but did not do the required braiding because I couldn’t figure out how to integrate the almond paste. And I don’t think I let them rise long enough, which was a problem since my kitchen was cold. But it turned out okay: dense, fruity, sweet. I made a glaze from butter and eau de vie, added powdered sugar and crushed almonds and took two of the three pieces to my favorite party: my friends’ annual New Year party, which I first attended 11 years ago (during my week-long first date with my now husband).

Most of it was consumed at the party and my family made short work of the third piece (with no eau de vie glaze). Since everyone puts ingredient warnings on food at parties nowadays, the sign says “Contains ALL the Bad Stuff: eggs, dairy, nuts, wheat, sugar”.


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