Last Christmas I made stollen for the first time, using a yeast dough recipe. As Steve and I were up in the Midlands for a few days this week, I didn’t get started with my holiday baking and cooking until Christmas Eve day. I found this quick recipe for sour cherry stollen from Guardian recipe contributor Dan Lepard. I didn’t even use my Kitchen Aid mixer, just a wooden spoon and gripstand mixing bowl.
Sour Cherry Stollen
- 100g unsalted butter
- 125g caster sugar
- Finely grated zest of an orange
- ½ tsp each ground cardamom, cinnamon and cloves
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 medium egg
- 150g quark (or natural fromage frais) – I used plain full-fat yoghurt.
- 325g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 50g ground almonds
- 150g sour cherries
- 200g marzipan – store bought or homemade (recipe below)
- Rum, melted butter and icing sugar
Beat the butter, sugar, zest, spices and salt until smooth, then beat in the egg and quark.
Add the flour, baking powder, almonds and cherries, and mix to a soft, even dough.
On a floured worktop, pat out to an oval roughly 20cm long x 15cm deep.
I had some marzipan left over from last Christmas, but it had solidified into a brick. Several websites recommended steaming it in a microwave (which I do not own) so I decided to make my own. I found a good recipe and easy to follow instructions here.
- 150g icing sugar
- 150g ground almonds
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
Mix together the sugar and almonds. Place in the bowl of a food processor. Start the motor and after 10 seconds, gradually add all of the egg white. (The beating of the fork was supposed to keep the egg white from glopping in all at once, but it was difficult to control). Mix for just a few seconds until it forms into a ball.
Roll the marzipan 18cm long, and lay in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough in half and seal with water, seam side down. I decided to make two smaller loaves so that a) I won’t have quite so much to get through at once, and b) I could give one as a gift.
Place on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper, and bake at 190C (170C fan-assisted)/375F/gas mark 5 for 40 minutes, until just golden and baked when a skewer is poked in. As soon as it’s out, brush first with rum and then lots of melted butter.
Once cold, brush with more butter, and dredge heavily with icing sugar. Wrap well and leave to mature for a week.
Well, by the very next day, I wasn’t about to wait for a whole week, so I had a piece with a cup of Fortnum & Mason Christmas Spiced tea for my first breakfast on Christmas day.
This non-yeast dough wasn’t as elastic and pliable to work with and it cracked during the baking, but tasted absolutely divine and the icing sugar beautifully covered up the flaws. I’m not sure why it didn’t seem to rise very much. Maybe because I used yoghurt, but didn’t add any baking soda?
I just did some quick research and learned that baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate and needs an acidifying agent, eg, buttermilk, youghurt to activate it. Carbon dioxide is produced, oven temperatures cause the gas to expand and the dough to rise. Baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar (an acid) so doesn’t need any additional acid. I still don’t quite understand why the yoghurt substituted in my recipe (combined with the acid in the cream of tartar) wouldn’t cause the dough to rise enough using baking powder. I did find this very thorough discussion on leavening on baking911.com and the definitive recommendation is:
Adding buttermilk (an acid) instead of milk: if the recipe uses 1 teaspoons baking powder and you add ½ cup buttermilk, instead use ½ teaspoon baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.
I’ll have to try this recipe again using fromage frais and see how it rises. I actually didn’t ming the dearth of dough though, as it meant that I got to the yummy marzipan centre that much quicker!
The marzipan had a light and delicate texture quite superior to store bought. It’s so easy to make that there’s really no excuse not to use home-made all of the time.
The sour cherries came out plump and toothsome. I might try soaking them for an hour in rum before mixing them in the next time, just to see what happens.
Speaking of rum, the flavour of the rum didn’t seem to come through very much. I might only give away half of the other loaf, so I can do a comparison tasting with the week-long matured loaf. Quality control, you know!