It’s almost the middle of December and, so far, any festive feelings have eluded me. In fact, my bah-humbuggery has been so extreme that, last week, I had a better time filling in my tax return than writing my Christmas cards. I know, I know, I should have been, and I was, ashamed of myself. I decided to attempt Delia Smith’s Christmas stollen to cheer myself up. It looked great in the picture; fruit bread, dotted with glacé cherries, apricots and candied peel, with a big slab of marzipan running through the middle. Very Christmassy.
Delia’s recipe first mixes all of the dry ingredients together. These are; strong white flour, easy bake yeast, salt, currants, candied peel, dried apricots, glacé cherries, chopped almonds, lemon zest and caster sugar. I usually have half a pot of chopped mixed peel at the back of the cupboard that will have been there since last Christmas. I don’t know what I’ve been doing with mixed peel lately, but my pot wasn’t there (luckily, I found this out before I started on the stollen). There wasn’t any in Leamington Spa so, following Delia’s advice, I ordered a pot of whole mixed peel online. She says that it tastes much better that the ready chopped stuff. She’s right. My new chop-it-yourself mixed peel actually tastes like fruit rather than year old sugary cardboard.
Anyway, back to the stollen. After mixing the dry ingredients together, I added some softened butter (Delia always uses spreadable butter in her recipes, but I never have any), warm milk and a beaten egg and mixed it up until everything came together into a pretty sticky dough. I tipped it out, kneaded it a little, put it back into the bowl, covered it with clingfilm and left it to prove.
In the recipe, Delia makes it clear that the proving should be done at room temperature. She says that the dough has to double in size, and that the time that this will depend on various factors – it could be as long as two hours. I checked after an hour. Nowhere near. I did my ironing and checked again. Still nothing like doubled in size. I’m not sure exactly how long it took for the dough to double in size in the end, but I do know it was well over two hours before I thought it was big enough. What a great excuse for a Home and Away bingewatch.
I turned the dough out onto a floured board, whacked it a couple of times to knock the air out, and gave it a bit of a knead. The next step was to roll out the dough into a rectangle which, Delia says, should be 15x20cm. My dough measured about that before it even saw the rolling-pin. I flattened it out into to rectangle and it was quite a bit bigger than 15×20. My stollen was going to be a monster.
I had some marzipan left over from the spiced almond cake I made a couple of weeks ago. I rolled it into the required sausage shape and made a pretty big mistake by putting it lengthways down the middle of the dough. It should have been widthways. I had read the recipe, but I didn’t pick up on this until I watched the online video of how to make the perfect Christmas stollen. This meant that Delia’s stollen, with the widthways marzipan, was short and fat and mine was long and thin (actually it was long, but not that thin). I rolled up the stollen (lengthways) and put it onto a baking sheet to prove again.
This time, the proving was to be done in a warm place. I thought I was being pretty clever by putting it in the oven at its lowest setting (50º) and leaving the door open. The stollen did double in size in an hour as it was supposed to, but the stuff I’d used to grease the baking sheet melted and, when I took it out of the open oven, the stollen was swimming in melted butter. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I baked it at 160º fan for 40 minutes. When it came out of the oven I let it cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before moving it to a wire rack. I iced it with icing sugar mixed with lemon juice and left it to cool completely.
Here is my monster.
It doesn’t really taste like any other stollen I’ve had (usually from Marks and Spencer), but it’s OK (and doesn’t seem any worse for its butter bath during proving). It’s a sweet and fruity bread and, as soon as you hit the marzipan in the middle, it tastes like Christmas. I’m still not feeling 100 per cent festive, but my Christmas stollen has given me a bit of a push in the right direction.