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Gluten-Free Living

Gluten Free Living: Holiday stollen gets a makeover

A gluten-free stollen is pictured on November 26, 2013. 

(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

A gluten-free stollen is pictured on November 26, 2013. (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

About an hour into working on this recipe, I started to regret picking stollen for this month’s column. Everything in the kitchen – including the dog – was coated in a thin, white film of arrowroot powder, the store didn’t have candied fruit in stock, and the yeast I’d dug out of my freezer had expired. Last year.

For a moment, I thought about trying something else. Gluten-free gingerbread men, perhaps? Or flourless peppermint cupcakes? But I have fond childhood memories of stollen, and the raisins were already soaking in a mason jar of rum. So I persevered, and I’m glad I did. The crescent-shaped loaves that I pulled from my oven a few hours later were good – far better than the wheat-based variety and, despite my earlier panic, not that terribly hard to make.

Stollen is a German version of fruitcake, a dense, slightly sweet yeast bread that’s packed with candied fruit and slathered in butter and powdered sugar. It’s also well-suited to gluten-free interpretation. Pastries made with nontraditional flours tend to be heavier than their wheat-based cousins, which is bad for, say, croissants, but fine for something that’s traditionally hearty. And the ample amount of butter in these stollen prevents them from drying out.

This gluten-free version has a texture somewhere between a scone and Irish soda bread, and my troubles finding candied fruit actually made the recipe better. Instead of waxy bits of citron and cherries, these loaves feature rum-soaked raisins, cranberries and almonds, plus bits of crystallized ginger and fresh orange peel.

Many traditional varieties of stollen also include almond paste. I skipped that, instead using a bit of almond meal in the flour blend.

Making stollen isn’t hard, but the process involves several steps. It’s also important to remember that baking gluten-free yeast bread is very, very different from making bread with traditional flours. There’s no kneading, and one rise is plenty. It’s also important to remember that you’ll never get a real dough; instead, the ingredients come together in a thick, sticky batter.

Finished stollen can be served immediately or wrapped tightly and stored in the freezer. This recipe made five medium-sized stollen.

Gluten-free Stollen

1 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup rum

21/2 cups arrowroot powder

1/2 cup almond meal

1 cup sorghum flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

¼ cup warm water

2/3 milk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey, divided

1 tablespoon psyllium

1 egg

1 stick butter, melted

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon each mace, nutmeg and cloves

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped candied ginger (optional)

¼ cup chopped orange peel (candied or fresh)

butter and powdered sugar for coating

Step 1: Soak the fruit and nuts. Place the raisins, cranberries and almond slivers into a mason jar with the rum. Let sit overnight or until all the rum has been absorbed. You’ll need to shake the jar a few times to evenly distribute.

Step 2: Make the flour mix. Whisk together the arrowroot, almond meal and sorghum flour in a large bowl. (You could also put everything in a big Ziploc bag and shake.)

Step 3: Make the sponge. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour mixture with the instant yeast, the water, the milk, 1 tablespoon of honey and the flour. Let stand, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. While the sponge rests, whisk the psyllium into the remaining flour mixture and allow the egg to come to room temperature.

Step 4: Make the dough. Pour the sponge into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the fruit and nuts, the egg, the melted butter, the 1/3 cup honey, the spices, the vanilla and, if you’re using it, the candied ginger and orange peel. Mix well with the paddle attachment (not the dough hook.) Slowly add the flour mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then beat at medium-high speed for 2 minutes.

Step 5: Shape and rise. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Using wet hands, scoop the dough onto the parchment and shape it into 5 medium or 8 small stollen. Each roll should resemble a crescent. Allow to rise in a warm oven until double in size (about an hour.)

Step 6: Bake. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake stollen for 35 to 45 minutes. When the stollen are golden brown, remove from the oven. Brush liberally with melted butter and, if desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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