Fresh from the Oven December 2009

This is my first blog, so as I type I’m really hoping I’ve got this right as I had such fun tinkering with the stollen. I have to admit to being initially disappointed with the idea of stollen for my first blog with the group as I really can’t stand marzipan. However my enthusiasm was quickly regained as I decided to try to develop my own recipe with a substitute. It took a while to think my way around the problem but I eventually decided to try substituting hazelnuts for the almonds and see what happened.

Jules’ recipe, based on a Simon Rimmer stollen is an easy one to make.
One of the remaining problems I have from the accident is that I can’t knead dough for anything longer than a couple of minutes, and so I almost exclusively rely on my kitchenaid. Normally this isn’t a problem, but I did notice that with the stollen the fruit became quite chopped up by the dough hook. This is easily rectified (I discovered) by adding the fruit towards the end of the kneading time if using the machine.
I hunted around for a marzipan recipe and settled on the one from Delia’s Christmas. I’m not sure whether the oil content is generally different between hazelnuts and almonds or whether it was more to do with grinding my own hazelnuts against using the ready ground almonds, but I needed to vary the recipe quite a lot before I was happy with my hazelnut version.
Hazelnut Marzipan
6oz hazelnuts
2oz caster sugar
2oz icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp brandy
1 egg
First grind the hazelnuts. I use a slow speed in the coffee grinder attachment for my food processor which seems to work well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until they form a fairly stiff dough. If the mixture seems a little too sticky add some more icing sugar.
The hazelnut marzipan works much better if you use the non-blanched ones, for some reason the skins on the hazelnuts make for a much better texture.  I also found that the amount of icing sugar needed varied quite a lot, which I put down to the variation in oil content in the different batches of nuts.
Once I’d got the marzipan substitute sorted I’m afraid I got a bit over excited and added some apricots to the centre of the stollen. Not very authentic I know, but neither is hazelnut marzipan, and once I’d started…

The one major difference I did find was that where the recipe states to cook for 40 minutes, my stollen was slightly overdone at 24 minutes. I did make a couple more and tried a number of different temperatures before settling on 180 degrees for about 20 minutes for my oven.

All in all I was very pleased with this version, but decided to try some with apricot compote as though I really like the addition of the apricots the centre was a little dry for my taste.

Apricot Compote
12oz dried apricots
a good slug of brandy
Place the apricots in a saucepan with the brandy and enough water to almost cover. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes by which time all the liquid will have disappeared (be careful and watch this so it doesn’t catch). Add another slug of brandy and leave overnight to cool. All the brandy should be absorbed once cool.
I used about a half of the compote initially, which was a little too much, so next time I’ll use a third (I would have continued to experiment, but frankly was running out of time!)
My last note is one of encouragement for those moments when you realise you’ve messed up your baking. I was weighing out the ingredients for another version of my hazelnut stollen one night when I was particularly tired, and instead of adding 2oz caster sugar to the hazelnut marzipan bowl I added it to the stollen mix in the kitchenaid. I decided to bake this (I thought, ruined) version in a 6″ round tin, just to see what happened, and ended up with a pleasant, although perhaps slightly sweet fruitbread which was delicious when spread with unsalted butter!
So all in all I’ve really enjoyed my first Fresh from the Oven challenge, and learned a little along with way. Roll on January!
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