Dresdner Stollen (German Christmas fruitcake)
Rich yeast dough mixed with candied fruit and almonds. Perfect for the holidays!
Place the raisins or currants and candied citrus peel in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover. Set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid.
In a large bowl, mix the yeast with lukewarm water and set aside for 10 minutes to proof the yeast. Add 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 cup of the milk and stir together until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for at least an hour and up to 4 hours. This is your sponge.
Stir the sponge to deflate it. Add the remaining 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup milk, 12 ounces of butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead until smooth. The dough will be fairly soft and a little sticky.
Add more flour if the dough is too wet, or work in some of the raisin soaking water if it is too dry.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large greased bowl. Lightly grease the top of the dough and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise until doubled, from 1 to 2 hours.
Punch the dough down with your fist. Toss the raisins and citrus peel with some flour to coat and shake off the extra. Add the fruit and the almonds to the dough and fold the dough over to cover. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead to work the fruit and nuts into the dough.
Cut the dough into two equal portions. Roll each portion out into a rectangle that is about 1 inch thick in the middle with top and bottom edges thicker than the center. Fold the top of each loaf 3/4 of the way down toward the bottom and square the loaves with your hands.
Place the loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and a toothpick stuck in a loaf comes out clean.
Immediately brush each loaf all over with the melted butter, continuing until all the butter is used up. Add the powdered sugar to a sieve and shake over each of the loaves to cover them thickly. Set the loaves aside to cool completely.
Wrap each loaf tightly in aluminum foil and store in a cool place for at least 2 weeks before serving.
Marzipanstollen: In Step 6, roll 1 cup of marzipan out into a log and cut it into two. After rolling out the dough, lay a log of marzipan across the center of each and fold the dough down to encase the marzipan. Set aside for second rise and bake as directed.
A variety of candied or dried fruit can be used. Candied cherries, candied angelica and golden raisins (sultanas) are common. Sometimes a little ground cardamom, ground cinnamon or a dash of almond extract is added to the dough.