Well, this is the scene outside:
Poor little birds. The last two days we have had a lot of snow (well, to clarify I am talking about the Midlands region of the UK and we don’t get that much snow normally. So when it snows all day non-stop we like to talk about it. It’s weather and we are English!). This has meant that the roads are a no-go area so it was deemed a baking day. I have had a lump of marzipan (or almond paste) in the fridge since I made the youngest’s birthday cake at the beginning of December and have been meaning to make stollen ever since.
I followed Rachel Allen’s recipe for Dodo’s Stollen in her Bake book (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725972 0) pretty much word for word. That must be a first! The recipe makes two loaves, so one was donated to Mum and Dad. Rachel Allen suggests you try keeping it for a week to mature. We have failed in this respect so far.
It takes a while to make, and you probably do need to be having a baking day to make this, as there is a fair amount of leaving to rise.
100g candied peel, chopped finely
100g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast
225ml warm milk
500g strong white bread flour
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground finely
6 cardamom pods, husks removed and the seeds ground finely to make ½ tsp
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
150g butter cubed
100g caster sugar
icing sugar to dust
Place the fruit and the almonds in a bowl and pour over the rum and the vanilla extract. Mix well and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and put to one side whilst you make the dough.
Place the flour, salt, pepper, spices, lemon zest and yeast in a bowl and pour over the warm milk. Mix to form a dough. I found that it made a stiff dough with some of the flour not mixed in but figured that this was ok as you will be adding butter to the dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes. If you have a mixer with a dough hook use this to beat in the butter and the sugar. Then knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Make it into a ball shape, place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. It was a cold day when I was making mine so it took a bit longer than this to rise to double its size.
Using your fingertips, gently prod the air out of the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and prod gently into a square. Then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick. Pour the fruit and almond mixture over the top and then knead the dough until all the fruit is evenly distributed.
Cut the dough in half. Cut the marzipan in half.
Prod one piece of the dough into a square and then use the rolling pin until it measures about 15cm x 20cm. Roll one piece of the marzipan into a sausage that is slightly shorter than the dough and place this in the middle. Roll the dough around the marzipan and press it well to seal the seam. Shape into a log shape and place onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat the same with the other dough and marzipan. Make sure you leave plenty of room between the two loaves on the baking sheet so that they can rise without growing into one another.
Cover the baking tray with the large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaves won’t stick to the plastic as they rise and leave to rise again until they have almost doubled in size.
Remove from their plastic tent and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c or gas mark 6, or the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 40-45 minutes. If you are cooking in the Aga, check at 25 minutes and if brown, transfer to the baking oven for the rest of the cooking time.
Dust well with icing sugar. Rachel Allen recommends doing this when cool, but I did it as soon as they came out of the oven so some of it glazed a little.
Allow to cool before enjoying and if you can manage it leave it to mature, and then tell me how it tasted.