AS with many families, our surname was Americanized when my grandfather emigrated from Germany. The grand-sounding name of Pietzch was suddenly reduced to a fruit. "Peach," wrote the immigration officers. But every Christmas, my mom takes us back to our roots with the annual Christmas Stollen (SHTOLL-en), a heavy German coffee cake. Soon after the Thanksgiving hubbub is over, Mom retrieves the ragged recipe card, written out by Grandma Peach herself, and begins the long process of baking them.The loaves come out of the oven golden brown, teasing our noses. But after cooling, the loaves disappear into the freezer until Christmas morning, when the first loaf is cut for breakfast. The cutting of the Christmas Stollen was almost as exciting to me growing up as opening the presents. 2 packages dry yeast (2 tablespoons) 4 cups milk 12 cups flour 2 1/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 pound butter, melted 2 teaspoons lemon rind 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 pound raisins 1/2 pound currants 1/2 teaspoon mace 1/2 pound diced citron 1/2 pound slivered almonds 1 cup red and green candied cherries Melted butter to brush on top Powdered sugar for dusting
Bring milk to a boil, then sat aside to cool. Mix yeast with 1/2 cup warm water; set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Add melted butter, fruit, milk, dissolved yeast, and other ingredients. Mix together with floured hands until a soft dough is formed. Let rise overnight in greased bowl, about 12 hours, in a cool place - around 62 degrees F. In the morning, turn out on lightly floured board and divide into 6 equal portions. Form each portion into an oval about 9 by 13 inches by 3 inches thick. Put loaves on greased pans, cover with tea towels, and let rise in warm place until doubled (1-2 hours). Bake in pre-heated 350-degree F. oven about 20 minutes, until brown. Lower heat to 300 degrees F., cover with foil, and bake 40 minutes more. Remove from oven. Brush loaves with butter while hot, and dust with powdered sugar. Cool, wrap, and let ripen. Taste improves with age. Recipe may be halved.