Almond Stollen

After having made that lengthy Ciabatta the other day, I decided to make a quick and easy type of bread that had some kind of liquor in it, as well as dried fruits. I had been eyeing this recipe in Williams-Sonoma: Bread for quite some time, but my mom hadn't gotten around to buying the amaretto that's needed. You see, I'm still not 21, so I still have to rely on my parents to buy the liquor for when I need it for recipes. After having had a rough couple of days at work, I really thought I needed this new kind of bread. It sounded good and really tasty: it has both amaretto and almond extract. This did not disappoint. It has a texture that I still haven't been able to pinpoint. It's kind of between a bread texture and a cake one. The flavor is nice and light with the amaretto blending in really well with all the dried fruit. It's a sweet kind of bread that can be enjoyed with coffee or tea, so it went really fast at my house, since both my parents are major coffee drinkers.

"AMARETTO: This almond-flavored liqueur originated in Saronno, Italy, in the sixteenth century. Its elusive almond flavor is derived from crushed apricot pits. Almonds and apricots are members of the same plant family, and apricot pits have a flavor reminiscent of almonds. Amaretto retains its character in the heat of the oven, making it a perfect flavoring ingredient for baking, especially when used to complement the flavor or almonds. Brandy can be substituted for the amaretto in this recipe."

Almond Stollen
*makes 1 large loaf*

3/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tbsp amaretto
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
confectioner's sugar for dusting

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) In a food processor, combine the almonds and 1 cup of the flour. Process to make a fine meal. In a bowl, combine the almond mixture with the remaining flour and the granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, mace, nutmeg, and salt.
3) In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, amaretto, and vanilla and almond extracts and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the raisins, apricots, and cherries. Beat in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time, until a stiff batter forms, about 2 minutes.
4) Turn the batter out onto a floured board and gently knead a few times to make a cohesive dough. Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet. Pat into a thick oval about 10 inches long and 8 inches wide. Make a crease down the center of the oval with a chopstick or the blunt edge of a knife and, without stretching, gently fold the long side over to within 3/4 inch of the opposite edge, forming a long, narrow loaf with tapered ends. Press the top edge lightly to seal.
5) Bake until the stollen is lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush lightly with the melted butter. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Dust with confectioner's sugar once more before serving.

If you want to print this recipe out, go here to its link on the Williams-Sonoma site.

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