This makes a fabulously rich centrepiece. If you don’t want to decorate the wreath with marzipan apples, reduce the marzipan quantities by half. The stollen is delicious served with an amaretto and apple cocktail – mix together 50ml each of vodka and amaretto with 200ml of apple juice and serve over ice in a glass with a sugar and cinnamon rim.
Make the dough. Place the dates and apple slices in a food processor and finely chop. Sift the flour into the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir in the salt, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, ginger root and the chopped up dates and apple.
In a small saucepan gently warm the milk with the butter until the butter has melted and the liquid is only hand hot.
Reserve 2 teaspoons of the egg for the glaze, then add the remainder to the dough, followed by the milk and butter mixture. Mix on a low speed for 5 minutes to a smooth, stretchy, slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl with cling film, then leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until at least doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the decoration and fillings. Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/Gas 2–3. Slice the apple into wafer-thin discs using the mandolin and place the discs on a lined baking tray. Put them into the oven to dry out for about 45–50 minutes (you may need a little less time or a little longer). Turn them halfway through and remove any that are browned. Set aside until needed.
Make the marzipan. Mix together the sugars and ground almonds in a bowl, then add the whole egg and egg yolk, and the almond extract and amaretto. Bring the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth dough. Cut the marzipan in half and wrap each half in cling film. Set aside.
Make the cinnamon sugar. In a large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and ground ginger with a wooden spoon until creamy. Beat in the pecans and stem ginger.
Shape the dough. Turn out the risen dough onto worktop and fold it over on itself to knock out the air. Cut off 250g of dough and set aside.
Divide the remaining dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece out to a long rectangle measuring 10 x 50cm. Spread the cinnamon sugar in the middle of one rectangle, then roll it up to encase the filling. Pinch the seam well, so that the sugar can’t escape, and seal the ends.
Roll one piece of marzipan into a long sausage shape the same length as the dough and place in the centre of the second rectangle, then roll it up in the same way.
Twist the 2 lengths of dough together, keeping the joins at the bottom. Bring them together in a circle and pinch the ends. Place on a lined baking tray.
Divide the 250g piece of dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each to a 30cm-long sausage. Set the 4 strands side by side vertically in front of you and plait them. Shape the plait into a circle and place it on a baking tray.
Cover both doughs with oiled cling film or place them into a large plastic bag and leave them to prove for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.
Brush the reserved beaten egg over one strand of the dough on the large ring. Place both rings on a lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. Bake the smaller ring for 20–25 minutes and the larger for 45–50 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. (Don’t worry if some of the butter has oozed out – it will soak back into the dough when it cools.)
To make the marzipan apples, roll some of the remaining marzipan into 12 balls of various sizes and poke a hole in the top and bottom of each ball, to create apple shapes. Paint the apples with the red and green food colourings. Leave to dry, then use small pieces of marzipan to make little leaf shapes – paint these dark green. Leave to dry.
Thinly slice the date to make small stalks. Add some edible glue to the hole in the top of each apple and add a stalk and a leaf – allow to set and dry.
Once the stollen is cool, dust the icing sugar over the non-glazed strand of the large ring. Place the small ring on top of the larger one, then place marzipan apples along the joins. Arrange the apple slices around the stollen, then serve.