Stollen has been a part of my German family Christmas for as long as I can remember. While my Canadian friends had fruit cake, we had stollen.
Stollen is a yeast bread, it is not a cake. In fact, because of it’s similarity to bread and the lack of sweetness typical of Christmas baking, stollen was my least favorite Christmas treat. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually began to truly appreciate and crave the unique flavor of stollen with a nice cup of coffee.
Once I started to enjoy stollen, my annual cravings were fulfilled through the generous baking hands of my mom and my elderly German neighbour. After supplying loaves of stollen for several years, my neighbour decided it was time to pass on the tradition and for several years, I would go to her house to bake stollen. She taught me to be patient while waiting for the dough to rise, to soak the raisins in spiced rum for optimum flavor and to prevent burnt raisins by picking out certain ones – the kind of tips and tricks you pick up only under the tutelage of someone with years of experience.
And now, with mom living thousands of miles away and my neighbour nearing 90, I bake the Christmas stollen and share it with them.
Here is my recipe and technique for Christmas stollen which I hope to one day share with my son who loves stollen and my daughter who has yet to acquire a taste for stollen.
- 1/4 cup spiced rum
- 1/2 cup golden sultana raisins
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 2/3 cup milk
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2/3 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 1/2 - 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/2 cup candied citrus peel
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
- 8 oz marzipan
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl; set aside to soak overnight.
- Heat milk to 110°F (lukewarm). Pour in large bowl and add yeast; let rest for 5 minutes.
- Add melted butter, sugar, and salt to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add egg.
- Stir in 3 cups of flour to make a soft dough.
- Gradually add more flour, using your hands to form a smooth, springy dough.
- Knead dough thoroughly for about 8 minutes adding more flour only as needed to prevent stickiness. (The goal is to prevent stickiness, not to incorporate all the flour.)
- Knead in raisins, citrus peel, orange zest and sliced almonds. Add additional flour as needed to prevent stickiness. Knead until all fruits and nuts have been incorporated into a smooth dough.
- Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl; turn it over a few times to coat all sides. Cover with a clean, damp towel and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise for 1 hour to 2 hours.
- Punch down dough and divide into two pieces.
- On a lightly floured work surface use a rolling pin to form each piece into an 8 x 10 inch oval about 1/2 to 1 inch thick.
- Split marzipan into 2 pieces. Shape each piece into a log about 9 inches long (or 1 inch less than the length of your rolled out dough). Flatten the marzipan logs with a rolling pin.
- Fold the dough in half lengthwise, remove any raisins,citrus peel or almonds that are on top of the outside surface of the dough. Unfold dough, fold up the other side and remove any uncovered fruits and nuts from that side as well. (An important step to avoid burnt nuts and raisins). Unfold dough and place removed raisins, citrus peel and nuts on top of the dough.
- Place marzipan strips into the center of each piece of dough.
- Fold the dough lengthwise to cover the marzipan and leaving a 1/2 inch strip of dough exposed to give your stollen the traditional hump. Gently press the top edge of the dough into the bottom edge and form your stollen to the desired shape.
- Transfer stollen to baking sheet, loosely cover and let rest in a warm place for 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Bake stollen until golden brown all over about 25 to 30 minutes. For extra confidence that your stollen is baked through use a digital thermometer. Bread is done at 190 to 195°F (88-90°C)You can use a digital thermometer to test done
- Brush stollen immediately with melted butter. Sprinkle with a coating of icing sugar. Repeat for extra thick topping.
- Stollen improves with age. For best results wrap tightly and allow to sit for 2 weeks - if you can wait that long!
- To freeze stollen, do not add topping. Wrap tightly in wax paper or aluminum foil before putting in freezer bag. Top with melted butter and icing sugar after it has thawed completely.
Soak the raisins – very important step! A nice dark, spiced rum imparts extra flavor.
This is a yeast dough so you have to knead it to develop the gluten. I knead it thoroughly before adding the fruits and nuts and then once again to incorporate all the little tasty bits.
Incorporating all the fruits and nuts takes a lot of kneading, toss in a bit of flour as needed. You’ll likely curse me at this stage, believing that you’ll never get them all incorporated into the dough. Just keep kneading and adding a little flour if things get sticky from the soaked raisins, trust me, at some point they’ll all magically work their way into the dough.
Let the dough proof for 1 to 2 hours. With all those fruits and nuts, don’t expect it to double in size.
Roll out the dough and the marzipan.
Avoid burnt raisins, remove any on the outside surface that aren’t covered in dough.
Lay out marzipan just off center of dough.
Fold and shape stollen.
Put on baking sheet and bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes until they’re nicely browned.
Brush with butter.
Dust with icing sugar.
If making one to freeze, do not add icing sugar.
Ideally one would allow the flavors to develop and the stollen to mature for two weeks wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil in an airtight bag. My family has little patience and we enjoy the stollen right away.
I think I’ll go enjoy a piece right now! Merry Christmas!
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