How to make German Christmas bread – Stollen

How to make German Christmas bread – Stollen

Posted on 14. Oct, 2011 by in Bread and conversation, International bread adventures

My friend Jules spent many years kind of ignoring the fact that she is German.  Educated in the UK and a following a career path that took her from St Louis to South Africa, when I first visited her in Hamburg she swore that there were no German restaurants in the city.  Then she thought she knew of one and it ended up being Italian!  Ten years on she is now better on the German cultural front and the gaps in her knowledge about where to find the best herring or the kitchiest of Easter kitch are filled by her friends Martin and Simone.

Germany, for those of you who don't know it, may be the food capital of Europe.  Yes there are sausages, yes there are potatoes, indeed they do eat cabbage, and yes there is beer.  But what sausages!  What potatoes!  What cabbage!  And what beer!  More to the point, Germany, rather like Italy, is not one country.  Founded either in 1815 or 1871 depending on who you want to believe, Germany is a very young country although its individual nation states are very old indeed, steeped in strong culture and traditions and full of fantastic food.  The Germans, you see, just don't put up with poor quality anything.  End.  Stop.  The North is all about the sea, Bavaria is all about mountains and the divine pig, The West (bordering France) has a cuisine that absolutely rivals the French and in the East you find continental fare - incredible cakes, lots of game, rich sauces.  Very modern history has brought Italians and Turks, Vietnamese and Koreans, Central Asians and Sub Continentals - the choice of food in many places rivals London.

What Germans do best, though, in my humble opinion, are cakes.

Cake may be my favourite food.  I know I should not say that because I am actually a bread baker, not a cake baker and that is by choice.  I am pretty lame at cake:  not enough attention to detail.  However, I have been playing with Stollen recipes for years, telling myself that it has yeast and so it comes into my official remit.  There are about a zillion stollen recipes and the only thing anyone can agree with is that it seems to have originated in Dresden.  Some research into stollen explains that the sausage of marzipan in the middle symbolises the Baby Jesus and the dough is his swaddling clothes.  That presumes you have a marzipan sausage in the middle; a thing with which I did not grow up.  No, I like my stollen commando style and don't like the idea of cutting up the poor little Baby Jesus and spreading him with butter and eating him with a cup of tea.  Don't get me wrong.  I love marzipan, just not in my stollen.

I had never been happy with the recipes I found and so I turned to Simone, the oracle on German traditional cuisine.  She has not let me down and her recipe, I am delighted to say, calls for no eggs, no marzipan, and plenty of lard.  You can substitute butter for the lard, add in a sausage of marzipan if you must but don't add any eggs please or else you will throw out the balance of everything else.

Simone's Stollen

The day before you want to bake, you soak plenty of fruit and slivered almonds or ground almonds in rum.  80 proof  if you can get it.

Learn to bake stollen

Fruit soaking for Stollen

 

The next day, you make a predough and let it rest for 30 minutes.  The foamy bits are the predough foaming through and in the photo you see the butter, lard, lemon peel, and more flour on top.

Stollen course London

Predough and dough for stollen

Make the final dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. Roll it out and put in the rum soaked fruit.  Fold it in gently.  Let it rest for 45 minutes or leave it, covered, in the fridge overnight.  That's what I always do.  It's a lot easier to handle when it is cool.

Learn to bake stollen

Divide the dough into stollen sized pieces (800 g or so) and pat each one into a square about 2 cm thick.  If you are using a sausage of marzipan, lay it in the middle.  Then fold up the dough square rather like you would fold a piece of A4 (8 1/2 x 11") paper and let it sit for 10 minutes. A dough scraper helps with this.  If you have let it rest overnight in the fridge, let it rest in the loaves, covered with cling film, for 2-3 hours so it can come up to room temperature.  An alternative method of shaping is to shape it into an oval and cut a channel down the middle of at least 1 cm deep.

How to bake stollen

How to shape stollen if you want marzipan in it

How to shape stollen if you want marzipan in it, or even it you don't

Bake.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla sugar and icing sugar.  Then dribble more butter on them, let them cool and sprinkle on more icing sugar.

How to make stollen

Stollen with icing sugar 1

Baking stollen in London

Stollen with icing sugar 2

Wrap tightly in waxed paper and aluminium foil.  Let rest in a cool, dry place for six weeks at least.  Like English Christmas Cake, stollen needs to mature or it will be bland and simply fall apart when you try to cut it.

How to store stollen

Stollen dough wrapped for storeage

When you are ready to eat it, slice it thickly and lavishly spread butter on it.  Invite friends over for tea during advent, light some candles, sing some carols and share it with them.  It's great training for Christmas dinner.  Want to learn how to do it in a friendly, hands-on course, and bake stollen to take home?  Click here to take the stollen course.  Confident baker?  Click here for the recipe and have fun baking!

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9 Responses to “How to make German Christmas bread – Stollen”

  1. Mareile

    22. Oct, 2011

    Your recipe looks good to me and is not too dissimilar from the ones I know. But the shape is all wrong! And I have never seen anyone in Germany put butter on Stollen, I've got to say - a very strange idea. Perhaps it has got to do with the fact that there is an English compulsion to categorise bread and cake as inherently distinct - but we've got so many yeasty cakes, not just Stollen, and while obviously individual Stollen recipes vary in dryness and sweetness, in my mind the perfect Stollen is just moist enough, and just sweet enough (it is important that it is not too sickly) not to require a helping hand. I find slivered almonds hard to come by in the UK, but would strongly advise against substituting ground almonds - they mess with the texture, and there is something incomparably wonderful about the occasional rum-softened sliver of almond. As an alternative, I just chop blanched almonds lengthwise.

  2. virtuousbread

    22. Oct, 2011

    Dear Mareile, thanks for your comments! I love the debate and the endless varieties of bread around the world (or even around a country, region, or village or family for that matter!)

  3. Jemima

    23. Oct, 2013

    Hi, have you got the full recipe with ingredients etc? I want to make this for Christmas and its the best looking recipe I've found but can't find ingredients list. Many thanks! Jemima.

  4. virtuousbread

    23. Oct, 2013

    Hi Jemima

    the link to the recipes (just in case you think we are insane!) is here: http://www.virtuousbread.com/how-to-make-bread/recipies/simones-recipe-for-stollen/

  5. Katherine

    19. Dec, 2013

    Hello! I'm sorry but I've checked both of your posts about this recipe...do you add the rum as well that you've soaked the fruit in? Thanks!

  6. virtuousbread

    19. Dec, 2013

    Dear Katherine

    sorry about that - yes you do! In fact, easiest if you drain the liquid into the dough for kneading and then endeavour to add ALL the fruit! And you will find that you may need to add a bit more milk depending on how much of the rum your fruit soaked up and how greedy your flour is! Working in the fruit is cumbersome but it can be done - time and patience and lots of raisins on the floor!

  7. Katherine

    19. Dec, 2013

    Thanks so much, I find all my doughs and batters tend to be very dry here, I usually end up cutting flour, but I'll keep the flour and add more liquid. I certainly don't mind corralling wayward raisins!

  8. AndyB

    21. Dec, 2013

    Mareile - My father was German and always put butter on his Stollen. But our recipe was a little less sweet than yours. Perhaps it's a regional difference.

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