This German specialty bread, made for the Christmas season, is rich with rum-soaked fruits and is wrapped around a moist almond filling. The folded shape of the dough over the filling represents the baby Jesus wrapped in a swaddling clothes.

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
3 Tbs rum
3 1/2 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup mixed chopped peel
1/3 cup blanced whole almonds, chopped
melted butter, for brushing
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

For the almond filling:

1 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioner' sugar
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 egg, lightly beaten

NOTE: you can dust the cooled stollen with confectioners' sugar and cinnamon, or drizzled over a thin glace icing.

lightly grease a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the golden raisins and currants in a heatproof bowl and wram for 3 - 4 minutes. Pour in the rum and set aside.

Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and spices.

In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the milk until creamy. Pour into the flour and mis a little of the flour from around the edge into the milk mixture to make a thick batter. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on top of the batter, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Add the melted butter and egg and mix into a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 - 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. PLace in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for 2 - 3 hrs or until doubled in bulk.

Combine the ground almonds and sugar for the filling. Add the lemon juice and enough egg to knead to a smooth paste. Shape into an 8-inch long sausage, cover and set aside.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and puch down.

Pat out the dough into a reactangle about 1 inch thick and sprinkle on the golden raisins, currants, mixed chopped peel and almonds. Fold and knead the dough to incorporate the fruits and nuts.

Roll out the dough into an oval about 12/9 inches. Roll the center slightly thinner than te edges. Place the almond paste filling along the center and fold over the dough to enclose it, making sure that the top of the dough doesn't completely cover the base. The top edge should be slightly in from the bottom edge. Press down to seal.

Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Brush the top with melted butter and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.


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