Christmas isn’t over

Stollen: A traditional fruit and marzipan loaf.

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To make two loaves of stollen, you’ll need (a hell of a lot of ingredients):
Stage one: Fruit and dop

1 cup yellow raisins
1 cup dried fruit mixture
1 tablespoon citrus peel
1/2 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup of decent brandy
Place the dried fruit in a bowl and add the brandy. 
Cover and let it soak for a couple of days. If time is short, four hours of soaking is the minimum.

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Stage two: The yeasty starter
½ cup milk
½ cup white flour
4 teaspoons of yeast
This is the starter for the whole bang shoot. Heat the milk to 38°C, then mix in the flour and yeast. Cover with cling wrap and let it ferment for one hour.

Stage three: The dough and final production 

2 ¼ cups white flour
1 teaspoon each of lemon and orange zest
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter
¼ cup water
½ cup marzipan
½ cup blanched almonds slivers

Let’s assume that over christmas you took your first bite of someone else’s stollen and boy oh boy, you love it.

Now that the christmas goodies are disappearing from the shops, you wonder if you could bake one yourself. Of course you can! It’s a series of straightforward procedures, like all cooking. But be warned, my friends. You’re setting yourself up for four hours of truly non-recreational hard labour.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and the two zests. Gently add the starter, butter, egg and sufficient water to create a soft lump.

Cover with cling wrap and let it stand for 10 minutes. Mix in the brandy-soaked fruit by hand.Flour a large work surface and knead the dough by hand for six minutes. This is a good work out for forearms, shoulders and pectoral muscles.

Smear a little vegetable oil on the interior of a clean mixing bowl, add the kneaded dough, and move it around to cover lightly with oil. Cover with cling wrap and let it rise for 40 to 50 minutes.Break the dough ball in half and roll each half to create a dinner-plate-sized circle. Place the marzipan in the middle and fold the circle, moulding it by hand into a thick crescent. Sprinkle slivered almonds over the surface. Place the two crescents onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Place this in a cool oven until it increases one-and-a-half times in size. Remove and cover while the oven heats up to 180°C.

Return the crescents of uncooked stollen to the middle rack of the oven and bake until a baking thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the stollen indicates 90°C. If you lack such equipment, watch the loaf carefully after 20 minutes or so. It’s ready when the exterior is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped.Remove from the oven and arrange on a rack. With a pastry brush, add a light layer of vegetable oil or molten butter, then sprinkle generously with icing or caster sugar. Let it cool for an hour or two, then serve with freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee, preferably black and unsweetened. And even after all that effort, you’ve still got the rest of your life ahead of you.