What timing! Did you know that today is National Fruitcake Day?
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book ... and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
Stollen is a German fruitcake that bears a similarity to panettone and other traditional holiday yeast breads. This bread is stuffed with dried fruit, zest, candied citrus, and nuts, and the mildly sweet dough is topped with melted butter and confectioners' sugar after baking.
I have a fractious relationship with fruitcake at best. I didn't grow up with a family that baked traditional fruitcakes, but I heard the stories from friends and, well, the world at large, which told me that fruitcake was heavy, saccharine-sweet, and stuffed with everything from raisins to the frightening red and green jellied cubes that were supposed to be candied citrus.
Of course, I've moved on from that point in my life, at least a little bit. I still prefer my raisins eaten out of hand to mixed into bread, and I only recently discovered that homemade candied citrus is not only edible, but absurdly delicious, but I've eaten various fruitcakes from around the world over the years.
I made a few variations to the recipe based on my desires and my pantry stock: I substituted the traditional raisins with cranberries that needed terribly to be used; I soaked them in orange juice instead of rum (to avoid waste from the fruit I was zesting and candying); I used finely chopped almonds rather than slivered almonds because I don't like big pieces of crunchy things in my bread. I also added the candied orange peel only when I was rolling the dough into its wreath shape, as I didn't start making it until I was ready to make the bread. Luckily for us, there was enough orange peel left over for us to munch on it throughout the evening, as well.
Due to this bread's longevity—supposedly, it lasts for a couple weeks at room temperature—I may continue to fiddle with the recipe before next year's holiday season. I'm sure my family wouldn't be bothered by the addition of a fruitcake to the cornucopia that I mail out.