Stollen (also known as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen at Christmas) is a traditional German fruit loaf. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Stollen was first made, but over the centuries it has developed from a very basic pastry – probably eaten by the peasantry – to an enriched bread with religious significance. The traditional baking of Stollen is probably most closely linked with Dresden in the east of Germany where it has played a vital role in the city’s Christmas markets since – it is claimed – the 14th Century.
As with many traditional foods all over the world, there is significant regional difference in the way it is prepared. However, I’m a proponent of the best-known variety; a rich, spicy bread with a “sausage” of homemade marzipan – nutmeg in this case - running its length. Much like gluhwein, this rendition of Stollen has become a firm favourite in German Christmas markets across Europe and it isn’t as tricky to make as you might think.
Feel free to play with the flavourings in this recipe – I’ve seen pistachio marzipan used and glacé cherries included in the mixture. To be honest, as long as you’re inclined to use a little of your common sense, it’s hard to go wrong when flavouring Stollen. Experiment within the recipe a little – it’s a joy!
Can you tell I can’t wait for Christmas this year?
Makes one large loaf
• 325g strong white bread flour
• ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 40g caster sugar
• 150ml whole milk
• 7g sachet of yeast
• 1 egg, beaten
• 110g salted butter, softened
• zest of 1 lemon
• zest of 1 orange
• 120g sultanas
• 50g raisins or currants
• 30g candied peel
• 300g homemade marzipan
• Icing sugar for dusting
1. Gently warm the milk and pour into a jug, mixing in the yeast and 1tsp of the sugar – set aside to froth. Meanwhile, sieve together the flour, spices and remaining sugar.
2. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and tip in the milk mixture, egg and softened butter. Bring this together with your hands into a soft dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and springy. Pop in a clean bowl and leave in a warm place to double in size (1-2 hours).
3. Once doubled in size knead your dough once more to knock it back, before incorporating the dried fruit, zest and candied peel with further kneading. Roll the dough out into a rectangle of roughly 8” by 10”.
4. Shape your marzipan into a sausage that fits just inside the rolled dough. Fold the shorter edges over the marzipan and roll into a “log”. Transfer the loaf onto baking parchment and return to a warm place to prove for an hour.
5. Preheat your oven to 190C/180C (fan) and bake your stollen for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Set aside to cool on a wire rack before dusting generously with icing sugar and decorating unnecessarily.
Cost: Of course, bread enriched with so many delicious flavours and spices – not to mention the butter and marzipan – is always going to be a little more expensive than your average loaf. However, one small slice at a time is certainly enough where Stollen is concerned – though you’ll probably want more. Still, the entire loaf should set you back a relatively reasonable £3.50!