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Sauder Village's Stollen

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Stollen
This traditional fruited, raised bread is very popular among German families. It is braided with 3 rolls of dough. Those 3 rolls represent the trinity. This recipe here makes 4 Stollens. 

Ingredients
7 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 lb. butter softened
2 pkg. dry yeast
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. mace (or 1/3 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom works well)
2 tsp. salt
Grated rind of one lemon
1 1/2 C milk (lukewarm)
Candied Fruit and raisins. (I used 1 tablespoon each candied orange peel and candied lemon peel, 1/3 cup golden raisins, 1/4 cup currants, 2 tablespoons each dried cherries, dark raisins, and dried craisins.)
1 beaten egg for glaze.
1 cup blanched, peeled, halved almonds to decorate the outside.
 
Directions
1. Heat the milk to a lukewarm, 100°F, and stir in the yeast.
2. In your bowl pour in the milk mixture, 2 C flour and 1/4 C sugar, blend together. This is called a sponge, and let it sit so the yeast activates. (15 min.)
3. While the sponge is working, assemble the other ingredients.
4. Add the eggs, butter, mace, salt, lemon peel, and the fruit and raisins.
5. Add the flour and mix in one cup at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth and shinny. A little bit more flour is necessary if the dough is too sticky, but don't add too much, that will make it heavy!
6. Place in a greased bowl, or right on your cutting board if you like, and let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled.
7. Punch the dough down and divide into 4 pieces.
8. Now take a piece and divide it into 3 pieces. Roll each one into a snake about 1 and ½ inch in diameter and about 6 to 9 inches long.
9. Braid the snakes loosely just a few times and tuck in the end pieces.
10. Place on a greased baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces.
11. Allow to rise nearly double. Brush with a beaten egg and top with blanched almonds.
It is best to skin and split the almonds into halves. Bake at 335 to 350 degrees for 25 to 30 min. till golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
When cooled double wrap the stollen in plastic wrap, and then foil. Keep them in the freezer and let them cure till the holidays. They are good right out of the oven as well.
Blanching almonds. 
Put 1 C of shelled almonds in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to stand for 5-min. drain off hot water and cover with cold water and let it stand for a few minutes. Drain and place on a towel. The skins will slip off easily. Split in half starting at the narrow end. The halves stick well to the dough, whereas if you use the whole almonds, they are bulky and fall off when you slice the Stollen.