I grew up in a family of raisin lovers: milk chocolate with hazelnuts and raisins, pilaf, apple-strudel, Milirahmstrudel, apple crumble with raisins, raisins covered in chocolate, various cakes, Christmas Stollen, cookies and many more – I had a pretty hard time avoiding those little vulgarities. But I learned to deal with it, my way that is: Either I sweet-talked my dear grandma to make an additional – sans raisins – version of the dish (yes, she was a heart of a grandma) or I started the dissection of the dish, picking out the tiniest little raisin – receiving disapproving looks. And to top things off, Oliver looooves them. He could probably survive on just a handful of nuts and raisins…GREAT!
Growing older and getting tired of hunting down each and every raisin (in a dish I wanted to try for all the other reasons), I tried hard to getting used to them – or even like them? No such thing. Zero progress, nada. Not even the slightest improvement. What’s the reasoning behind my raisin-dislike, is it the texture, their taste, or both? As I do like dried fruit in general (prunes, apricots, cranberries), it can’t be their looks or haptic. And why should their taste bother me? I enjoy sweet and fresh grapes whenever I can, and the same with wine. Since I can’t figure it out on my own, I feel I need to get with “Unresolved Mysteries”…
In the end I still do what I’ve done over the years: Removing the tiniest bit of a raisin, choosing a raisin-less version of a dish or avoiding it altogether. Concerning our Christmas Stollen: Option #2 was the way to go. Sacrilege you think? Salvation, I say!
Stollen is a traditional German Christmas cake – show me one family not having one during Christmas season and I start eating raisins. Well maybe not, but “Dresdner Christstollen” is said to be the most famous and oldest stollen, with lots of raisins, currants (dried equally bad), orange peel and candied lemon (even worse than raisins). So this particular one never really was an option. But there are several other variations, much better suited for a picky stollen-eater like me: Mohnstollen (poppy seed), Nußstollen (nuts), Mandelstollen (almonds, marzipan), Quarkstollen (curd cheese). Having tried several recipes over the past years, I haven’t found one I wanted to stick with. But this year I was lucky. Very lucky. In fact, as I’m writing this, the third batch of Quarkstollen is giving our kitchen a wonderful aura. The recipe is absolutely fool-proof, the preparation time (minus dough rising and baking) is less than 15 minutes, but the outcome is indescribably yummy! As it doesn’t contain typical Christmas spices, which one could add of course, this will be a regular cake/sweet bread on our table throughout the year. Perfect for lazy Sundays with a cup of tea, prepared just a day before. Which leads me to the next benefit: This stollen doesn’t need to sit and rest for some days until you’re allowed to cut off the first slice. I even tried it lukewarm from the oven and had Oliver pull me away from it…it was so good.
Merry X-mas and happy holidays to all of you!
In a medium sized bowl, dissolve yeast with 4 tbsp of lukewarm milk and 1 tsp sugar; let the mixture rest for about 15-20 minutes. The original recipe suggests a cup for this step – which taught me, that yeast doughs can not only rise but literally walk away… A cup is definitely too small for this pre-dough!
In a large bowl, add the flour, remaining sugar, dig a hole in the middle and pour the yeast pre-dough into its center. Add the remaining milk and place the butter in small pieces along the edge, then add the curd, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
Knead very well, feel free to use a food processor/KitchenAid of your choice. If you feel the dough is too “soft/wet” add more flour by the spoon. When the dough has begun to pull together, cover it up and let rise for about 60 minutes at a cozy, warm place.
Meanwhile chop the dried apricots into small cubes – my substitute for the soaked raisins the original recipe calls for. It worked like a charm, giving the stollen some color and a wonderful flavour. Punch dough down, return to floured work surface and add and knead in the apricot bits. Continue kneading until smooth. Preheat oven to 175°C (347°F).
Roll or flatten dough into a rectangle about 4cm thick (1,5 inch), pinching the ends to almost close and put on baking sheet.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until loaf turns golden brown. Just after removing it from the oven, brush top generously with melted butter. Once cooled off, dust amply with confectioner’s sugar and wrap closely in cling film.
Tip: When ready to serve, dust with another sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar. Best eaten the next day.
Quarkstollen ("curd stollen")
Recipe source: Backen für Weihnachten by Regine Stroner (p.85, adapted)
Required time: prep.: ~15 min., waiting: ~80 min., baking: ~50 min.
Ingredients (yield: 1 loaf):
40g fresh yeast
1/8l lukewarm milk
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
150g curd (Quark, 20% fat)
100g dried apricots, diced
50g melted butter