While I can't say it was a surprise, I was a little... frustrated? disappointed? concerned? when I saw that the December Daring Bakers' challenge was something so very Christmassy. Me being so very Jewish, I was considering sitting this one out, more on principle than anything else. That and the fact that this looked to be a lot like a fruitcake. Something I never had any interest in even trying... But after thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized that this might be an interesting one to do, Christmassy or not. For one thing, my mother-in-law loves fruitcake, so this might be something nice for her to enjoy. For another, my husband's family is of German descent - Pennsylvania Dutch. ("If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much," as my husband has said on occasion...!) This being a traditional German treat, it was just another reason to give it a try.
Once I decided that I was going to take part in this challenge, I had to decide how I was going to put my own spin on it. I knew I wouldn't be using candied fruits, as I don't have any interest in them. I knew I would not be using any nuts, as we have not yet given Little Girl any nuts. And I knew I wouldn't be soaking anything in rum, as we don't have any, don't drink it, don't like it, and otherwise have no reason to keep it around! Looking at all of these limits I was giving myself, I again thought about sitting this round out. Then I got inspired. Really, I think it was the huge bag of dried cranberries that got me. I decided to make two different versions of the stollen - both using cranberries as the primary fruit component.
My first stollen would be made for a holiday party for the mom's group I am a part of. This one was an orange-cranberry-white chocolate stollen. I soaked the cranberries in orange juice, and used only orange zest in the dough. The dough was not difficult to make, but it did take a lot of dishes, and I was really glad to have the use of my KitchenAid to do the kneading! Once the dough was made it went into the fridge for a nice, slow, cool rising. I actually kept the dough in there for about three days. Other than taking up a lot of room, it wasn't even close to an issue! When it was time to make the stollen, I took it out and let it warm up for a couple of hours. The next step was to roll the dough out. This is not something I am used to doing for bread...! For this first go, I actually don't think I rolled the dough thin enough... Oops... Before rolling the dough into a log, I sprinkled chopped white chocolate chips onto the surface, just to add more dimension to the final product. Once rolled, the log was formed into a ring. Penny had wanted us to shape our stollen like wreaths in honor of the holiday. As wonderful as Penny is, and as amazing as her stollen looked, I just didn't feel right making a wreath. So I stuck to a ring. Another rise and it was into the oven to bake. But the baking isn't the last step...! As soon as the stollen came out of the oven it was time to brush the whole thing with melted butter (or margarine, in my case...) then give it a few generous dustings of powdered sugar. Messy? Absolutely. Worth the mess? Heck, yeah! The finished stollen looked like a snow covered island. Because this was made for a party, I couldn't test taste it or there would be a big gaping hole... Luckily, though, I had planned ahead... Before forming my ring I had cut off a small section of dough and made a mini "bun" to taste. I am glad I did, too...! The stollen was enjoyed all around, both at home and at the party. So I was really glad that I hadn't walked away from this challenge!But I wasn't done. Remember that Pennsylvania Dutch family of mine? I still wanted to do a stollen for them, too! So I made my second version - lemon-cranberry-dried pineapple with cinnamon sugar stollen. This time around I rolled my dough thinner, making for better rings. I also decided to make three smaller loaves and a set of six muffins instead of one large loaf. This way I could give one to my parents-in-law, one to my siblings-in law, have some for snacking, and even have one for myself! I have not yet had the chance to taste this creation, but I am really looking forward to it... The smell of it baking was amazing, and the combination of the lemon and cranberry, with the bits of pineapple... So tempting! But I am trying to keep things intact until they can get to my in-laws' house tomorrow...
Thank you so much, Penny, for encouraging me, and the rest of the Daring Barkers, to try something so wonderful. I can honestly say this is not a recipe I would have ever made were it not for the challenge, and I am really glad that you gave me the opportunity and the push to do it! If you want to see what the other amazing Bakers did with their stollen, take a look here!