Baking sourdough stollen
Teaching baking at The Clink restaurant in High Down Prison is always a blast. There are new things to see, do, and try every time. We did a lot of Italian Baking this year. We had the world premiere of the sourdough hot cross bun. This month, we prepared (in addition to sourdough cinnamon buns, sourdough olive and sun-dried tomato bread, sourdough feta and parsley bread) sourdough stollen! Why do we bake with sourdough at The Clink? The answer is because yeast is a banned substance in prisons (tendency to abscond with it and make booze). However, we have all come to an even greater appreciation of sourdough than we had before.
At The Clink the chefs don’t know anything other than sourdough so the refreshing, long rise, and patient stretching and folding that is required to make good sourdough bread is simply second nature. Further, because we make everything out of sourdough we know we can make anything out of sourdough. And, as regular readers will know, we at Virtuous Bread have no patience for the silly mystique that surrounds sourdough, given that we have been baking with it from the beginning of baking. Yeast was only “made visible” in the 1850s. Before that, everything was risen with natural yeast. Think about it. We know we have been making leavened bread for 5000 years. We made yeast visible (and therefore were able to manufacture it commercially to add to dough) in the 1850s. What were we doing for the previous 4850 years? You got it in one: baking with natural yeast trapped in a paste of flour and water – ie sourdough. Sourdough is the kitchen slave of bread, not the king of bread. Besides which, it’s unlikely that the king ever got near the dough.
Remonstrations with “cult of sourdough personalities” over, let’s move on to the sourdough stollen. Stollen is made with dough that is enriched with butter, milk, spices, and plenty of rum-soaked fruit and nuts. To make it well, even with yeast, requires a pre-ferment (pre-dough/flying ferment) in order to get as much activity in as much of the flour as possible before all the enriching items are added. Yeast (natural or commercial) does not like the enriching items and they slow down the rise of the dough. Making the pre-dough gives your dough the best possible chance of reaching a reasonable rise before you have to bake it. To see a recipe for regular stollen (and remember, this is just one of zillions), click here. Below, please find what we did to make our sourdough stollen. I cannot tell you how it tastes because it is wrapped up in many layers of greaseproof paper to mature for six weeks (alumnimium foil is another banned substance in prison: drugs) so I will let you know when I go back shortly before Christmas how it was. It looked good and the dough tasted good so let’s hope for the best. I cannot show photos (no cameras in prison) so you have to use your imagination. Without further ado, the recipe for sourdough stollen.
Ingredients to bake sourdough stollen (makes two):
800 g raisins
100 g candied citrus peel
250 g slivered almonds
250 ml rum
1 kg plain white wheat flour
500 g refreshed white wheat sourdough (see below for exactly what we use)
150 g sugar
250 g full fat milk (warmed and then cooled again to blood temperature)
150 g butter (at room temperature)
75 g lard (or use butter if you are lard phobic)
1 tsp salt
grated peel of one lemon
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
125 g melted butter
icing sugar to dust
The morning before you want to make the stollen you need to do two things:
1. Soak the fruit and nuts in the alcohol. Cover and leave until the next day.
2. Refresh a white wheat sourdough starter so that you have 500 grams to use for the stollen. The 1857 sourdough starter (which the Clink also uses) is equal volumes of flour and water. Yours may be equal weights or slightly different but just adjust the amount of flour in your final dough so that the final dough is soft but manageable. A typical bun dough.
The evening before you want to make the stollen you need to do one thing:
1. Take 500 g of your refreshed white wheat sourdough and add 250 ml of warm milk (see above), 500 g flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar. You really need to work this with your hands to get it together. It will be dry and hard to incorporate the flour. Try hard and don’t worry. Cover it and leave it at least 12 hours if not 16.
The morning you want to bake the stollen:
To the (now extremely bubbly pre dough) add 500 g flour, 150 g sugar, 150 g butter, 75 g lard, 1 tsp salt, grated lemon zest. Knead this for a good 10-15 minutes. You may need to adjust the flour or the fat content. If the dough is too slack add a bit of flour. If it is too stiff add more butter/lard. The dough must be soft almost like a brioche dough. Let the kneaded dough rest in the bowl for 1 hour and then fold in the soaked fruit gently. Put the dough back in a bowl, cover, and let rest for 2 hours.
Take the dough out and divide into two pieces. Press each piece into a rectangle and then fold one side into the middle and the other side over the top. If you would like to use a sausage of marzipan (we prefer our stollen commando), lay the sausage of marzipan in the middle of the dough and fold the dough around the marzipan – wrapping it up completely and sealing it in bu pinching the edges together.
Place the loaves on a baking tray on baking parchment and cover this and let it rest for two hours.
Preheat the oven to 250 C. Place the stollen in and turn the heat down to 180 C. Bake for 50 minutes.
When done, remove from the oven and brush them with 75 g melted butter. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar and dust with icing sugar. Let cool completely and then dribble 75 g more melted butter on them and then dust with more icing sugar. Let cool, wrap well in baking parchment/greaseproof paper and let mature for 4-6 weeks. Slice, butter, and have with tea! That’s what we will be doing at The Clink in mid December. You are welcome to join us.