Cardamom, Mahleb and Saffron Stollen with Apricots, Figs and Pistachios – Version 2

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I first made this particular Stollen recipe last year. A result of some frantic recipe-testing in between hosting our first supperclubs and cooking classes and the general pre-Christmas frenzy of Christmas parties, present shopping and trying to get to the bottom of my to do list before the Christmas break. 

This is not a recipe for a traditional Stollen like the ones my grandma used to send to us. Or those you can buy at the Christmas markets all over Germany. But since Stollen is nothing more than spiced enriched dough full of dried fruit (and often also full of a heady mix of different spices), there is nothing stopping us (and generally nothing stopping me) from replacing some of the original ingredients for a slightly different flavour profile that still manages to stay true to the original.

So I went ahead and used some of my favourite spices – Saffron, Cardamom and Mahleb. Exotic and somewhat rare they also feel appropriate for making Stollen, which, after all, is a bread made for a celebration. And the chopped pistachios (standing in for the more common chopped almonds) were included as a slight nod to the Middle East where Saffron, Cardamom and Mahleb are used much more commonly in desserts than where I grew up.

Last year, some of these Stollen experiments were shared with Kaja while we were planning our next events one afternoon over multiple cups of coffee at mine. A few slices were wrapped up and given to my friend Camille as a thank you for letting us borrow her speakers and cutlery for our first supperclub. A few more slices were given to my colleague Luca, in theory to share with his wife but I am not sure she actually got to try any! And across the board, the Stollen got rave reviews – I think the lack of candied fruit explains its mass appeal. 

So this year I decided to remake the recipe. In part because it is one of my favourite things to make. But also to try and take some new photos. Since I felt last year’s photos, hastily taken on my dining table still covered in the tablecloth from the previous night’s supperclub and in the fading afternoon light, did not do this Stollen recipe any justice.

So here we are with Version 2 of the Saffron, Cardamom and Mahleb Stollen with Apricots and Pistachios. With some new photos and some slightly tweaked notes and instructions for the recipe. And because I know it takes a few tries to get the hang of shaping Stollen, I posted some photos here to show you the process for shaping the Stollen.

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Saffron, Cardamom and Mahleb Stollen with Apricots and Pistachios – Version 2

Notes: The recipe for this Stollen is not particularly long or complicated, so there is nothing stopping you from making the Stollen during one evening or morning (assuming you have soaked your fruit sufficiently in advance), just make sure you start early enough so your Stollen baking does not interfere with your beauty sleep! Stollen often comes with a log of marzipan running through its middle – I am not the biggest marzipan fan so have not included instructions for this here, but that should not stop you from adding some marzipan to the dough, either in small pieces or as a single log which you can place in the centre of the dough before you start shaping it.

Ingredients

For the Stollen

50g dried apricots, finely chopped
25g dried figs, finely chopped
25g dried currants or raisins
1 cup of freshly brewed strong black tea

250g flour
20g fresh yeast or 7g dried active yeast
50g sugar
75ml milk, lukewarm
100g butter, melted
½ egg
1 tbsp ground mahleb
Seeds of 3 cardamom pods, finely ground
1 generous pinch of saffron, finely ground
¼ tsp salt
50g pistachios, finely chopped

Eggwash: 1/2 egg whisked together with a glug of milk

To finish

50g melted butter
60g icing sugar

Directions

One hour before you want to start preparing the Stollen dough, soak the chopped apricots, chopped figs and currants in the black tea. (Note that some dried figs you can buy are rockhard – if so you will want to soak the dried figs overnight so they have enough time to soak up the tea and soften)

Prepare a sponge by whisking together 1 tbsp of the sugar, 3 tbsp of the milk and 1 tbsp of the flour with the yeast. Set aside for 15 minutes or until the sponge is starting to foam.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, milk, flour, the melted butter, the ½ egg, mahleb, cardamom, saffron and salt with the sponge. Knead the dough for ca. 5-10 minutes or until the dough passes the windowpane test (i.e. it is no longer sticky and can easily be stretched thin enough for the dough to become translucent). Cover and set aside somewhere warm for 1h or until the dough has doubled in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Lightly dust your counter with flour, place the dough on it and gently flatten it. Strain the soaked fruit (but feel free to keep the strained juices – it’ll make a delicious addition to your next fruit compote!) and scatter over the dough together with the chopped pistachios. Knead the dough until the chopped fruit and pistachios are evenly dispersed (the dough may be quite sticky at this stage, but that is normal, use a dough scraper or a little extra flour if things get too sticky to easily handle the dough).

Shape the dough into a round. On a floured surface (and using a well-floured rolling pin) flatten just the centre of the dough as shown here so you end up with a flat middle portion flanked by two humps. Now fold one of the humps over itself towards the centre of the dough. Next, fold the other hump of dough on top of that and, holding the handle of a wooden spoon parallel to your body, press down into the dough just before the top hump (this will ensure that the Stollen won’t unfold in the oven). Cover and set aside to proof for a further 30 minutes or until visibly risen and puffy.

Brush the Stollen with the egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the Stollen is nicely browned (you might want to check on the Stollen after 30 minutes or so and if it is starting to brown too much, cover it with some parchment paper for the remaining baking time). Using a toothpick remove any burned pieces of fruit from the crust of the Stollen. Leave the Stollen to cool down completely. Once cooled down, brush it all over with melted butter before generously dusting with icing sugar. Brush with butter again before dusting with the remaining icing sugar. This process forms a thin butter and sugar crust all around the Stollen which will help it to keep better. 

Note that typically Stollen is given at least a couple of weeks to mature and it is normal for Stollen to have a fairly dense texture and feel heavy compared to other types of enriched breads like Brioche or Panettone, for example, but this is intentional. While in Germany we typically eat Stollen plain (it is after all quite rich and flavourful already), the other day I saw someone post a photo of a toasted slice of Stollen on instagram and I already made a mental note to try that over the Christmas break.

 

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