Have Discard? Need a Weekend Baking Project? Make Sourdough Stollen Christmas Bread
Making a traditional Christmas bread or stollen is a great idea for using your sourdough starter and for a nice weekend project, especially as the pandemic continues and access to stores and Christmas markets is limited. The bread is a special Christmastime treat and makes a wonderful gift. The process for making sourdough stollen isn't hard, but it is a process. This isn't an instant bread. Nonetheless, the wait is worth it. Sourdough stollen is incredibly good and rich tasting, definitely worthy of the Christmas season.
The recipe I'm posting turns out a large, heavy loaf studded with dried fruits, nuts, and white and dark chocolate chips. A little orange zest adds a slight citrus zing and highlights the sourdough tang. For me, making the stollen is an easy process, even though I need three days to do it. The primary reason is that I let my dough sit in a cool place overnight for two rises. I put my dough in our unheated sunroom, which is about the temperature of the refrigerator (or a little lower sometimes). The slow, overnight rises improve the flavor of the bread and let me limit my hassle with the dough. On day one, I get the bread started. Day two, I punch the dough down and shape it. On day three, I let the bread come to room temperature and continue its rise. Then I bake the bread, slather it with melted butter, and dust it with a thick coating of powdered sugar (this is not a "diet" bread). The butter/sugar combination helps the bread keep longer, as does the sourdough process. So, if you want a bread for Christmas that you can make now, this sourdough stollen is the answer. You'll want to eat the bread before Christmas, though, especially as you smell it baking and see it in its finished form.
Sourdough Christmas Bread Stollen -- Makes 1 Large Loaf
1 cup of sourdough starter/discard
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour (I use half whole wheat)
In a large bowl, mix the ingredients listed above until well combined. Let the mixture sit at least an hour (I usually let it go for four or five hours, because I mix it in the morning, leave it, and come back to it after lunch). Then add:
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
Mix in the flour and salt and let the dough sit for about four hours. Then add:
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup of white baking chocolate or baking chips
1 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup of chopped dried dates
Grated zest of an orange
Mix the dried fruit, nuts, white and chocolate chips, and orange zest into the dough. The dough will be heavy and hard to mix, so exercise your muscles! I don't knead the dough, as it's sticky. I use a wooden spoon and a lot of bicep power. Spritz the dough with non-stick cooking spray, cover it lightly with plastic wrap, and place the dough in a cool place (like the refrigerator) overnight.
The next morning, let the dough come to room temperature and rise until it has not quite doubled. This will take most of the day if your house is cool. Deflate the dough, dump the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit on your baking sheet, and press it into a large rectangle about 1 1/2-inches thick. From a long side of the dough, fold about half of the rectangle over the other half, stopping a couple of inches before the bottom edge of the dough. Slide the dough on its parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Place the dough, spritzed with non-stick cooking spray and lightly covered with plastic wrap, in a cool place (like the refrigerator) overnight.
The next morning, remove the shaped dough from its cool place. Let it come to room temperature and continue its rise until it has increased from its original size by about one-third to one-half. This is likely to take most of the day if your house is cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the stollen for 35-45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the stollen registers about 205 degrees.
Let the stollen cool a few minutes while you melt 1/2 cup of butter. When the butter has melted, drizzle it all over the stollen (top and let run under the bottom). Let the butter soak into the stollen for about 30 minutes. Then, dust the top, bottom, and sides of the stollen with 1/2-1 cup of powdered sugar. Loosely cover the stollen with parchment or waxed paper and let it sit until completely cool. Then dust the stollen again with 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Wrap the stollen with parchment, plastic wrap, and/or aluminum foil. To serve the stollen, slice it crosswise into thin slices.