5. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Press one ball into a thick round about 7-1/2 inches in diameter. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom. Starting about one-third from the bottom, using your thumbs, firmly press a deep semicircular trough in the dough, reaching almost through the dough. This will keep the stollen layers from separating when baked. Repeat with the second ball. Transfer each to a prepared pan and cover with the towels. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes.
6. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Uncover the loaves and bake, switching the positions of the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until deep golden brown, almost walnut-colored, about 35 minutes. The stollen may look a shade darker than you might expect, but do not underbake them.
7. To make the coating, combine the superfine sugar and vanilla seeds on a half-sheet pan. Brush the hot stollen twice with warm melted butter. Roll each loaf in vanilla sugar to coat well. Return to the pans and sprinkle with the remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. Generously sift confectioners' sugar on top. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.)
For the vanilla beans:
Baker's Note: Look for a reliable source of vanilla beans and compare prices. Vanilla beans are never inexpensive, but if you buy them in bulk, the price will become more reasonable. This recipe uses 12 vanilla beans. However, you can soak up to 3 dozen in the same amount of rum. The beans will last for up to 6 months in the rum, after which time they may get too soft.
1. Cut 1/8 inch off the bottom end of each vanilla bean. Stand the beans, cut ends down, in a large glass jar that is at least 12 inches tall. Pour in 2 inches of rum. Cover the jar and let stand until the beans are softened, at least 2 weeks. There is no need to turn the vanilla beans — just let them be.
2. To use a bean, remove one from the jar. Hold the cut end of the bean over the bowl containing the mixture that you want to flavor. Starting at the unsnipped end of the bean, squeeze down the length of the bean to extrude the pulp. (This will remind you of squeezing the last bit of toothpaste from its tube.) If using the bean, split it lengthwise to release more flavor. When a recipe calls for less than a whole bean, return the unused part to the jar.
From Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine with Rick Rodgers (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2010). Text copyright ©2010 by Sarabeth Levine. Photographs copyright ©2010 by Quentin Bacon. Used with permission of the publisher.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.