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Stollen Wreath Bread with Mrs. Kostyra

At a traditional German Christmas table, stollen is likely to appear as a beloved part of breakfast or as a conclusion to the holiday meal. A stollen begins as a sweet, rich yeast dough, which is then accented with dried fruits and nuts, and baked until golden brown. This version, brought to us by Martha's mother, is served every year at the Kostyra family Christmas.

  • Yield: Makes 1 large wreath
Stollen Wreath Bread with Mrs. Kostyra

Ingredients

  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1 1/4 cups golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 3 tablespoons, melted
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (5 teaspoons)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Grated zest of 2 oranges
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup chopped citron
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 1/4 cups blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. In two separate bowls, soak currants in cognac and golden raisins in orange juice; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, mace, and nutmeg; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup milk and 10 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

  2. Pour 1/4 cup warm water into a small bowl; sprinkle with yeast, and let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely. Add the dissolved yeast, warm milk mixture, and eggs to the flour mixture. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead until fairly smooth. Transfer dough to a large bowl.

  3. Add currants and raisins in their liquid, orange zest, lemon zest, citron, apricots, and almonds, and then work them into the dough with your hands. Transfer dough to work surface, and knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky, knead in more flour, but be careful not to overwork.

  4. Butter a large bowl with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 by 24 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Carefully transfer dough to a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet; join ends together, pinching with fingers if necessary to make it stick, forming a large circle.

  6. Using sharp kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape with all the segments overlapping.

  7. Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel; set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Dough will rise only a little bit. Brush dough with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake until golden brown and crusty, about 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

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