Christmas is not the same without some kind of fruit cake. In Germany, they have stollen, with marzipan in the middle. I am very passionate about this bread, as I learned how to make it from a master baker and confectioner in Münster, Germany.
To make the fruit mixture (one week in advance):
• In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients.
• Cover the bowl with clingfilm/ plastic wrap and let stand in a cool place for up to one week. When it is ready, most of the liquid should have been absorbed.
To make the dough:
• In a (larger) mixing bowl, weigh out the yeast. Add the milk and stir until the yeast has dissolved.
• Add the 20g/2½ tablespoons flour and mix with a wooden spoon until well mixed. This is the pre-ferment.
• Cover the bowl and let ferment in a warm place until doubled in size – about 30 minutes.
• While the pre-ferment rises, in another (smaller) mixing bowl, beat the 50g/3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter, sugar, salt, cardamom and vanilla extract with a balloon whisk until soft.
• Add the egg, little by little, whisking well.
• If the mixture separates, add a teaspoon of flour (from the 150g/1¼ cups) to help bind it.
• Mix about 1 tablespoon of the flour (from the 150g/1¼ cups) into the reserved fruit mixture to absorb any surplus moisture. Set aside.
• When the pre-ferment has risen, stir it into the butter mixture.
• Add the remaining 150g/1¼ cups flour to the mixture and mix until it comes together.
• Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
• After 10 minutes, knead.
• Cover the bowl again and let stand for 10 minutes.
• Repeat steps 11 and 12 three times
• Add the reserved dried fruit mixture to the dough and knead gently until thoroughly mixed in.
• Cover and let rise until about double the size – about 1 hour.
• Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
• Punch down the dough to release the air and transfer to the floured work surface.
• Shape the dough into a ball and let rest until it is workable – about 5 minutes.
• Meanwhile, shape the marzipan into a short sausage.
• Dust the dough with a little flour so that it does not stick to the rolling pin. Roll out the dough to a rough square.
• Place the marzipan sausage in the middle.
• Pull the dough over the ends of the marzipan.
• Fold the size closest to you over the marzipan and enclose it completely.
• Fold the side furthest from you over.
• Roll the stollen over so that the seam is underneath. Use both hands to mould the dough around the marzipan in the middle.
• Transfer the stollen to the prepared baking sheet, cover and let rise in a warm place until slightly less than double the size – about 30 minutes.
• About 20 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6. Place a roasting pan at the bottom of the oven to pre-heat. Fill a cup with water and set aside.
• Place the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven, pour the reserved cupful of water onto the hot roasting pan and lower the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
• Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
• To check if it is baked through, tip it upside down and tap the bottom – it should sound hollow. If it is not ready, return to the oven for a few minutes.
• Dislodge any darkened raisins stuck to the baking sheet with a sharp knife, but take care not to damage the stollen.
• Brush the stollen with the hot, melted butter, allow to seep into the dough, then repeat twice more.
• Let cool completely.
To make the glaze and finish the stollen:
• Put the ingredients for the glaze in a pan and bring to a boil.
• Brush the glaze all over (top and bottom) the cold stollen.
• Generously dust a tray with vanilla sugar and put freshly glazed stollen on it. Dust the top and sides with the vanilla sugar too.
• Finally, dust the stollen with icing/ confectioners’ sugar.