How to make German Christmas bread – Stollen

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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 recipe – see here

13 thoughts on “How to make German Christmas bread – Stollen”

  1. 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.

    1. 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!)

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. You do not have any marzipan through the centre of your stollen.
    First time I ever had it as a child it was always with marzipan.
    I just bought one &guess what, no marzipan.

  6. This is November 30, 2020 and I have just read your article, with interest. How ever I have discovered no recipe! Either your link is broken or you’ve discontinued your bread recipe pages. There have been 7 years passed since the last comments written. Perhaps you no longer even blog. Thank you for the informative article but you should have included the recipe, instead of just a lead on to take your course. I have made many kinds of breads, including Stollen. All I needed was the recipe. “Page not not found!” was very disappointing.

    1. I am so glad you left a comment! Thank you for that. There is a recipe but you are right, it's not here at all. I will find the recipe and get it to you!

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