After a year and a half of intentionally not speaking to each other, a boy who I went on a few dates with tries to re-establish contact.
It’s been awhile since we’ve talked. Do you want to go out for coffee some time after work to catch up?
Not particularly, I want to reply. The last time we spoke, you literally could not tell me a single interest or hobby you had, because you apparently did not have any. Our dates were filled with a lot of awkward silence. It was excruciating.
But I don’t. I’m not good in these situations. I want to be Not a Bitch, but I don’t want to have further contact with this boy and I don’t really want to lead him on.
I give him a sort of ambiguous answer that while it would be nice, my schedule is pretty full. We’ll see.
Seems pretty obvious, but sometimes it is not. I don’t recall him being particularly bright. (I recall this being part of the problem from before.)
So, while I dodge unrequited affections and try to navigate this Tumblr-esque mess of a new WordPress interface, I figure out just what I want to put into my first ever stollen. Cherries or cranberries? Marzipan or no? Do I go full-on tradition with the three rises or do I take short cuts? We’ll get to the bottom of this, and it will be full of spices, both tart and sweet, almond bites through from the marzipan (or, really, almond paste). A hard shell of ginger sugar on the outside, so moist and soft on the inside. The confectioner’s sugar messy but beautiful. It all goes down easy — too easy — with a strong cup of coffee, until you’ve found you’ve eaten half the loaf without realizing it. Woops.
Slightly adapted from this New York Times recipe
Yield: 2 loaves
2/3 cup black currants (or dark raisins)
2/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup brandy or dark rum (I used brandy only because it was what I had)
1 cup chopped raw unsalted pistachios, lightly roasted
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup mixed candied citrus peel (I used orange)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 ounces almond paste
The night before baking, mix raisins, currants, cranberries and alcohol in a small container. Mix pistachios with 1/4 cup water in another container. Cover both and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next day, in an electric mixer with paddle, set on low speed, mix yeast with milk until dissolved. Add 1 cup flour and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. This is the “starter.” Transfer starter to a lightly greased bowl, cover with greased plastic, and let rest for 40 minutes at room temperature.
In an electric mixer with paddle and set on low speed, mix remaining 3 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. I recommend rubbing the vanilla seeds into the sugar first before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. With motor running, pour in 1 cup melted butter. Mix on slow for 1 minute, then add egg yolk. Mix until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute more.
Divide starter dough into 3 pieces. Add starter to mixture in bowl, 1 piece at a time, mixing on slow until each addition is thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes after each addition. After starter is absorbed, mix dough on a medium speed until glossy, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add pistachios, candied ginger and citrus peel if using, and mix on slow until combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add raisins, currants, cranberries, and alcohol and mix on slow until combined, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until fruit and nuts are inside dough rather than stuck on surface, and dough is smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes. Bits and pieces of fruit and nuts will try to make their escape from the dough. This is okay, just knead them back in. Your stollen won’t suffer if it a few screws come loose here and there.
Place dough in a medium bowl and cover with plastic. Rest for 1 hour to let rise slightly. Then knead it once or twice, cover with plastic and let rest for another hour.
Divide almond paste into two pieces and roll each piece into a thick rope about 7 inches long.
Divide into 2 equal pieces and shape each into an oval loaf about 8 inches long. Flatten the loaves and lay an almond paste rope on each loaf. fold dough over the almond paste and pinch edges closed with your fingers. Gently reform each loaf back into its oval shape. Stack 2 rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, lining top pan with parchment. Place loaves on doubled pans and cover with plastic. Allow loaves to rest 1 more hour at room temperature.
About 20 minutes before this rise is completed, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic covering loaves and bake for about 1 hour. Loaves should look uniformly dark golden brown and internal temperature taken from middle of each loaf should be 190 degrees.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger. When stollen is done, transfer top pan holding loaves to a wire rack (leave stollen on pan). While still hot, brush stollen with remaining 1 cup of melted butter, letting butter soak into loaves. Sprinkle ginger sugar on tops and sides of loaves. When loaves are completely cool, cover loosely with waxed or parchment paper or foil and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
The next day, sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar over loaves, rolling to coat bottom and sides evenly with sugar. Wrap each loaf in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 days before sifting remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar over loaves and serving.
Stollen keeps for weeks. But it will probably never last that long because you will consume all of it in a matter of days, undoubtedly.