No Christmas morning in my family would be complete without slightly frozen raspberries drizzled with heavy cream and what we call "Christmas Bread". This scrumptious recipe from The Joy of Cooking has been made by at least three generations in my family. Joy of Cooking calls it Stollen or Christmas Loaf. This slightly sweet yeast bread is full of almonds and candied fruit. We always slice it, smother it with butter and slightly toast it under the broiler.
6 to 8 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 to 2 packages dried yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 pound raisins
1/2 lb chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped candied fruit (red cherries are best). This year I'm substituting tart dried cherries
1 1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons brandy or rum
1. place the yeast in 1 1/2 cups 85 degree water. and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I never actually take it's temperature, so just make a guess. Joy also suggests having all the ingredients at 75 degrees before starting, which can be tough on a winter morning.
2. Add yeast to one cup of the sifted flour. Let rise in a warm placed until doubled.
|Warning! You need a lot of huge mixing bowls for this recipe|
3. Sprinkle a little of the flour over the raisins, chopped almonds, and chopped candied fruit.
4. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter until soft. Gradually add 3/4 cups sifted sugar. Blend until light and creamy. Add three eggs, one at a time. Add the salt, lemon rind, and brandy or rum.
4. Add the fruit and nuts to the above mixture.
5. Add the flour and yeast mixture to the rest of the flour to the above mixture. Stir in as much as you can. You will probably have to knead in the last two cups of flour.
6. knead until smooth and elastic. You may even need a little more than 8 cups to get it the correct consistency. Just add a little at a time until it's no longer sticky, and has good elasticity.
7. Let rise until almost doubled. This is a lot of dough, so I divide it into two greased bowls, and cover it with a damp towel. You can put it in a warm over to speed up the process but make sure it's not hot or you could kill the yeast. I mark the sides of my bowls with a postit note so I can keep track of how large it was before it started rising.
8. Toss onto a floured board.
9. Divide into two or three loaves (if you haven't already) and place in greased bread pans. You might want to have three pans on hand. Some pans are larger than others, and this can be way too much dough for two pans. Mine sometimes looks like the blob- taking over my kitchen.
|This was too much dough for the pans. These two ended up huge and a little deformed|
10. Brush tops with melted butter.
11. Let rise, covered, until almost doubled.
12. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes. If your pans are smaller or you use a glass pan, reduce to 325 and start monitoring it at 30 minutes. It's done with the tops are nicely browned.
|The mini loaf I made with the leftover dough.|
As you can see, Christmas bread is time consuming to make. Leave at least 6 to 8 hours for the entire process. Trust me, it's worth it. "So where's the untwisting?" you ask. Well, this year I've made it without the candied fruit and substituted dried tart cherries. I figure cherries will be more appetizing to my husband's family. My next plan is to make a gluten-free version, candied cherries and all. Wish me luck! I'll post the results in a future blog.