Have you seen any stollen in your favorite supermarket yet?
What’s stollen, you ask? Well, it’s a German Christmas cake/bread, filled with nuts and fruit, and coated – heavily – in butter and confectioners’ sugar.
Sounds almost like fruitcake, doesn’t it? The difference, though, is stark: fruitcake is dense and moist, often soaked in liquor or syrup. Stollen, while dense, is also rather hard, dry, and crumbly.
Now, it’s not unpleasantly dry; think crunchy vs. chewy chocolate chip cookie. But there are those who eschew this classic holiday pastry due to its signature texture.
Not me; I enjoy a good stollen. And the other day, when thinking about making one, I had one of those light bulb moments. Or, as my fifth-grade teacher, Miss Kellam, used to exclaim when one of us FINALLY understood the intricacies of long division or sentence diagramming:
“Light dawns on Marblehead!”
Dry. Crumbly. This is often what people complain about when sampling not-quite-successful gluten-free baked goods, which do, in fact, tend toward the dry and crumbly if you’re a novice GF baker.
But with stollen, dry/crumbly is pretty much the goal. How about taking my favorite stollen recipe, and making it gluten-free?
Bingo! A couple of changes – substituting gluten-free flour for all-purpose, adding an egg and xanthan gum for structure – and I had two loaves of absolutely yummy Gluten-Free Holiday Stollen.
Sometimes my gluten-free conversions are flops; sometimes they take some work, and sometimes – like with this stollen – they’re a step-up-to-the-plate-and-belt-it homerun.
Which is good, since it’s December and we’re all gathering our favorite holiday recipes, right? If you have any friends or family eating gluten-free, add this to your list. I guarantee they’ll thank you for this dry-ish, somewhat crumbly, and absolutely delicious holiday bread.
Can you make it without all of these? Sure. It’ll just lose some of its depth, flavor-wise, but will still be good.
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.
Whisk together the following:
Cut 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter into small chunks, then blend it into the flour mixture to form uneven crumbs.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the following:
3/4 cup ricotta cheese, part-skim milk type
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, optional but good
the grated rind of 1 small lemon; or 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil, or 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
Set this liquid mixture aside.
Stir the following into the flour mixture:
1 cup Fruitcake Fruit Blend; or 1/2 cup golden raisins + 1/2 cup of your favorite dried fruits, chopped to 1/2″ pieces if necessary
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing until most of the flour is moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface or piece of parchment, and knead it two or three times, until it holds together. Make sure the surface is floured with gluten-free flour!
Divide the dough in half. Pat each piece of dough into an 8″ x 7″ oval about 1/2″ thick. Fold each piece of dough roughly in half, leaving the edge of the top half about 1/2″ short of the edge of the bottom half.
Should you fold the long way, or the short way? The long way will give you a longer, narrower stollen, with shorter slices; folding the short way will give you a wider, fatter stollen, with longer slices. I’ve chosen to fold the long way.
Use the edge of your hand to press the dough to seal about 1″ in back of the open edge; this will make the traditional stollen shape. It’s also the familiar Parker House roll shape, if you’ve ever made them. The dough will probably crack; that’s OK, just smooth it out as best you can.
Carefully place the shaped stollen on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the stollen until they’re very lightly browned around the edges and on top, about 40 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.
While the stollen are baking, melt 6 tablespoons butter, and put 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar into a sieve or sifter.
Remove the stollen from the oven, and transfer them to a rack.
Brush each stollen with 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Sprinkle heavily with confectioners’ sugar.
Allow the stollen to cool, then brush with butter again, and sprinkle with sugar again.
Wrap in plastic wrap until ready to serve; for best texture, serve within a week.
If desired, sprinkle with additional sugar just before serving.
Have I convinced you to try this?
I hope so; if you’re a fan of European holiday breads, I think you’ll enjoy it.
And, if you’re not baking gluten-free, try our marzipan-filled Christmas Stollen; our classic yeasted Stollen; or my favorite, Our Easiest Stollen (or its pumpkin-flavored counterpart, Golden Stollen), both of which rely on baking powder for leavening.
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