Today, my older daughter had to bring a food to school representing her ethnicity. With all the blue eyes and fair skin in this family, that landed us in the north – either the British Isles, Scandinavia, or possibly Germany (on her papa’s side). Since my Scandinavian mother taught me to cook, I told my kiddo to pick something from Norway or Sweden.
She immediately jumped to lutefisk. If you don’t know lutefisk, count yourself lucky. (To all our Scandinavian friends who eat this stuff by choice, please forgive me). Lutefisk is a white fish, preserved in lye, with the consistency of the jelly that oozes out when you open a canned ham. Seriously. If you think I’m kidding, this is the definition in my dictionary: a Scandinavian dish prepared by soaking dried cod in lye to tenderize it, then skinning, boning, and boiling the fish to a gelatinous consistency. Yum. I’ve eaten lutefisk many times out of duty, but wasn’t about to cook it. So I made some suggestions, and she chose Stollen, a bread eaten by both Scandinavians and Germans and which I’ve made before with my mother for Christmas.
Normally, since this was her school project, she’d help me. But yesterday was the Colorado Poetry Out Loud state finals, and my daughter, having won her school competition, got to attend. At thirteen, she was the youngest participant and we are enormously proud of her performances. (The mama in me had to give a shout out, because she did great). But … this meant I had to make the bread alone, and because I hadn’t thought through the timing, I almost didn’t start in time to get it done before the competition. So today, I’m writing about the Stollen, because that’s all I did yesterday (besides hours of poetry).
Stollen is a mildly sweet, glazed yeast bread. It is filled with currants, dried or candied fruits, almonds, orange peel and lemon peel; and it’s seasoned with cardamom, a spice frequently used in Scandinavian dishes. I considered cleaning up before I took the picture, but this is more authentic. I was in such a rush putting it together that my kitchen looked like something exploded by the time I was finished. My house smelled deliciously of oranges though, which is so much better than the smell of lutefisk…
4+ cups of bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup currants
1/4 diced dried cherries
1/4 chopped blanched almonds
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon butter
In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt till warm (120˚ – 130˚). Butter will be almost melted. Add to yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir. Add cardamom and 4 cups flour, and stir until combined. Add additional flour until dough comes together without being too sticky. Stir in currants, dried fruit, almonds, and orange and lemon zest.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (5-8 minutes). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double – about 2 hours.
Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Roll one portion into a 10×6-inch oval. Without stretching, fold the long side over to within 1 inch of the opposite edge – press lightly to seal. Place on greased baking sheet. Repeat with remainder of dough. Cover; let rise until double – another hour.
Bake in a 375˚ oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Remove to racks and cool for thirty minutes. Mix glaze and brush over the warm bread.