Stollen has got to be one of my favourite festive treats. It should have a delectably soft crumb, sticky sweet crust and generous marzipan middle. I know not everyone is a fan of the traditional sultana and peel version, so I researched an alternative and here are the results: cherry stollen with pistachio marzipan. The tangy cherry tempers the richness of the sweet pistachios and the aromatic dough is surprisingly light. It’s particularly tasty warmed in the oven, making the marzipan meltingly moreish. To make it, you will need:
For the dough:
250g strong white flour
5 pods cardamom, seeds only, crushed (or ½ tsp ground cardamom)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cloves, crushed
1 x 7g sachet instant dried yeast
3/4 tsp salt
150g butter, divided in half
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
200g dried cherries, roughly chopped
30g icing sugar, for dusting.
For the marzipan
150g pistachio kernels
130g icing sugar
⅛ tsp salt
30g egg white
Vanilla extract (optional)
Combine the dry ingredients (minus the dried cherries or peel) in a bowl. Don’t heap the salt directly on the yeast, or vice versa, as this may kill the yeast. Melt 75g butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat. Stir in the milk, egg, vanilla extract and orange zest. If the mix is less than tepid, heat it very gently over a low heat – just enough to slightly warm it.
Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Knead into a dough for about 10 minutes. Once everything’s thoroughly combined, tip it out on to a clean work surface (don’t add flour!) and knead. The mixture may feel a little wet, but due to the high butter content it’s more elastic than sticky. It’ll soon begin to feel smoother and more elastic.
After 10 minutes, add the dried cherries.
Return the dough to a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave it for 1½-2 hours at room temperature, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the pistachio marzipan. Grind the nuts in a food processor. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and stir in the icing sugar and salt. Add the egg white (30g is about two-thirds of the egg white of a large egg – this seems a bit daffy, but too much risks making the mixture wet and sticky).
Combine the egg with the pistachio mixture using a cutting motion, then use your hands to work the paste into a smooth mixture. If it’s too dry, add a few more drops of egg, or some vanilla extract, if you prefer.
Gently knock back the risen dough. Stretch it out to an approximately 30 x 20cm rectangle. Roll the marzipan into a 30cm log (you can use more or less of it, depending on how much marzipan you prefer – I say the more the merrier!) and lay it along the middle of the dough.
Roll the dough around the marzipan, making the seam on the bottom, and fold the ends of the log underneath. Let the stollen rise for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas 4.
Bake for 40 minutes. Towards the end of the bake, melt the remaining butter over a low heat. As soon as the stollen is ready, brush it all over (even underneath) with the melted butter. This will create a meltingly soft crust and festive richness.
Once cool, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.
As the stollen is generously mummified in butter and sugar, this bread keeps well. Wrap in greaseproof paper or foil and continue to indulge at leisure over the Christmas holidays.
Cherry stollen with pistachio marzipan via Ruby Tandoh.