Oh, god — December. Just get out already!
Now, normally I try to write about something light-hearted or historical for my blog, but lately I’ve just been sitting at my computer, anxiously blanking out at the screen, or wasting my time on memebase sites.
While most people wait in anticipation of December and relish in the Christmas season, I fear it.
Like, literally fear it.
Worrying about the Christmas season keeps me up at night — December offers me nothing in terms of relaxation and happiness.
Time off from work? Not with two jobs!
Time off from school? Not unless you count the two weeks off that I will spend working!
Buying presents that I seriously don’t want to buy and getting stuff that I seriously don’t need? Not constructive — I’d rather keep my money for bills and have my friends and family do the same!
Family dinners? Seriously awkwaaaaard.
Not to mention that there’s almost always snarkiness or fighting that breaks out.
My ideal December would involve a month of hibernation and intermittent waking periods for baking cookies and drinking wine and eating stöllen. For reals.
Anyways, enough complaining. I try not to complain, because, seriously — all I’ve got are first world problems.
If this is a season to love and be thankful, then I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.
Like rum spiked nog and stöllen!
And I’m thankful for pastry without raisins — cuz we all know that raisins make everything terrible. So, just like last year, I present to you another joyous, raisin-fee Christmas cake to bake and enjoy!
I figured it was a worthwhile endeavor, considering how many incoming searches have been for “raisin free cake” this or “fruit cake no raisins” that.
This year, I made stöllen — and its sweet, lightly spiced flavour is totally unbelievable!
Stöllen is a yeast-risen, bread-like Christmas cake. It takes a fair bit of prep work, but it’s not all that complicated to make the loaf itself. Having all your ingredients in their place and an afternoon off to spend at home while the dough rises helps a lot.
The most difficult part of this recipe, in my opinion, is aging the stöllen for two weeks before eating it!
Make sure to read the recipe all the way through if and when you attempt this.
Dried Fruit & Nut Soak
- 1 & 1/2 cups dried fruit (cranberries/blueberries/currants)
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
- 1/2 cup bread flour
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 envelopes (14g/0.5oz) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 6 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks (reserve egg whites for filling)
- zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- sponge, risen
- dried fruits and almonds, soaked
- 1 & 1/4 cups (250g/9oz) almond paste
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- white sugar, for dusting
- icing sugar, for dusting
Soak the dried fruits, candied peel, and slivered almonds in dark spiced rum, tossing occasionally, up to a week ahead of time — or a minimum one night beforehand — covering and storing the soak in a cool, dark place.
On the day you bake, make the sponge 30 minutes ahead of time.
Dissolve the active dry yeast in lukewarm whole milk — allow the yeast to come to life and foam (if this doesn’t happen, you’ll have to start again with new yeast) before mixing the yeast and milk into half a cup of bread flour to make a spongy paste. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
When ready to start the stöllen dough, sift the flour, salt, and ground spices together. Set aside.
Cream the softened butter with the white sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolks (reserving the whites), lemon zest, and orange zest, and beat until smooth.
Add the sifted bread flour, salt, spices, and risen sponge. Mix until completely incorporated, then turn the dough out onto a clean working surface.
Knead in the soaked fruits, peel, and almonds, dusting your working surface and hands with more flour as necessary — the stöllen dough should be a little sticky, but not overly so.
Once all the fruits and nuts are incorporated into the dough, divide it into two even halves.
Shape each half into a ball, cover with plastic wrap (you can either leave them on your working surface, or let them rest in buttered bowls), and allow the stöllen dough to rise for 2 hours in a warm place.
After 90 minutes of allowing the dough to rise, prepare the almond filling by crumbling the almond paste into a bowl and adding the egg whites and dark spiced rum.
Mash everything together until it forms a relatively smooth and sticky paste. Set aside.
When 2 hours have passed, shape a ball of stöllen dough into a rough rectangle, gently pressing and stretching the dough until it’s about 2cm (1 inch) thick.
Take half of the almond filling and place it slightly to the side of the center of the dough rectangle.
Fold the long edge of the dough over the almond paste to encase it, using a little water to fix the seam if necessary. Pinch the ends of the stöllen loaf closed so that the almond paste cannot leak out.
Repeat this process for the remaining ball of dough.
Preheat the oven to 315°F/155°C. Line a metal baking sheet with two layers of parchment and/or double the baking tray.
Place the shaped and filled stöllen loaves on the baking tray and cover with plastic. Let rise for 1 hour by the warm oven, or until the loaves have increased in volume by about 50%.
After the second rise, bake the stöllen for 50 ~ 55 minutes, rotating the tray often. The stöllen will be done when they are well-browned all over.
While the stöllen are in the oven, melt a half cup of butter over medium-low heat. Strain the butter into a tall container and skim off any milk foam that floats to the top. Let the butter sit so that the milk solids sink to the bottom of the container.
As soon as the stöllen are out of the oven, transfer them to a wire rack for finishing.
Without waiting for the stöllen to cool, generously brush each loaf all over (including the bottom!) with the clarified butter and sprinkle with lots of white sugar. Let cool on the wire rack.
After cooling for about two hours, dust the top of each stöllen loaf with a thick coating of icing sugar. Wrap the loaves tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then in a layer of tin foil.
Store the stöllen in a cool, dark place to age for 2 ~ 3 weeks before eating.
Break these bad boys out during the holidays and enjoy the best damn Christmas cake you will ever make. Yum!