Overcoming the Fear of Baking Bread

I have tried a lot of different varieties of dishes including baked and cooked dishes, but one thing that has eluded me is bread. I have tried making it twice before and both times I was rather disappointed with the end result. I had almost given up on making bread at home and decided that I will just have to settle with store bought bread for the rest of my life. So when the daring bakers challenge for December was announced, I had mixed feelings. I was worried that my first Daring Bakers challenge was going to end up in another disastrous effort at making bread. So I procrastinated for a month and then I guess it was a Christmas miracle or something, I decided that I was going to give it a shot after all. Atleast I could rely on the recipe here and I think I do believe in Christmas miracles. So I decided to bake it in the midst of preparing a side dish and dessert to take to a friend’s place for dinner. And yes miracles do happen and I do believe in them now.

The Stollen turned out to be awesome. And my fear of baking bread at home has been completely eliminated. Thank you Penny from Sweet Sadie’s Baking, you hosted the perfect challenge for me to get over my fear of baking bread. The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking.  She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I wanted to take pictures of the wreath shaped stollen before I cut it. But it looked too tempting and I actually cut it before I clicked pictures. This bread makes the whole house smell so good and it tastes awesome. I am waiting to toast it and eat it with some coffee tomorrow morning. This recipe serves 10-12 persons and make one stollen wreath or two traditional shaped stollen loaves. I made my stollen wreath using half the quantities mentioned in the recipe and it is still quite a big wreath.

Preparation time:

The following times are approximate.  I suggest you gather and scale/weigh/measure all your ingredients before you begin mixing.

  • Approximately 1 hour first stage – then rest overnight or up to 3 days
  • 2 hours to warm up after refrigeration
  • 15 minutes shaping
  • 2 hours proofing
  • 30-45 minutes baking

Equipment required:

  • Mixer with dough hook or strong arms and hands
  • Mixing bowl
  • Bowl to soak raisins
  • Small saucepan
  • Sheet of plastic or plastic wrap to cover when proofing
  • Bench or pastry scraper (very handy for cutting dough and also cleaning work surface)
  • Rolling pin
  • Dough whisk can be handy but not necessary
  • Pastry Brush
  • A scale is really important to have when making bread so I strongly advise you to get one.  You do not have to have one though.  (would make a good Christmas gift!)
  • Sheet Pan or round Pizza pan
  • Parchment Paper


  1. ¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
  2. 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
  3. 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  4. 10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
  5. 5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first – then sift- plus extra for dusting)
  6. ½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
  7. ¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
  8. 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
  9. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  10. Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  11. 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
  12. 1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
  13. ¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
  14. 1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
  15. 3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
  16. 12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
  17. 1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
  18. Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
  19. Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or  you could use the juice from the zested orange.


Soak the raisins:

  • In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.

To make the dough:

  • Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
  • In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium – low heat until butter is melted.  Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
  • Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
  • In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
  • Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture.  This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.  Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
  • Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed.  The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky.  Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Put it in the fridge overnight.  The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm)  but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath:

  • Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  • Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

  • Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.

  • Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan.  Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle.  You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.

  • Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.

  • Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape.  Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

  • Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
  • Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  • Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
  • Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
  • Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
  • The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
  • Let cool at least an hour before serving.  Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh.
  • When completely cool, store in a plastic bag.  Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
  • The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm


The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar.

  • Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months
  • The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and
  • One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

Additional Information

Here is a link to recipes to make your own candied citrus peel http://www.harvestwizard.com/2006/12/candied_citron_recipe.html



Kneading Bread


Martha Stewart’s wreath


  1. audax artfiex says:

    Hello and welcome to the Daring Bakers’ and congratulations on your first very successful challenge and your first really good bread making experience LOL LOL.

    It is wonderful to hear that the process went so well for you and that the final stollen was sliced open before you could click a pictures <3<3<3

    It sounds like this might became a family tradition for you – the final crumb (the interior texture of the bread) is superb well done on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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