Stollen is a traditional German fruitcake made to celebrate the Christmas season. Although many recipes exist, the most famous is the Dresden Stollen (”Dresdner Weihnachtsstollen” in German). The city of Dresden is also where Stollen was first created in the 15th century and sold at the Striezelmarkt Christmas market. Originally called Striezel, the once folded over shape of the Stollen was meant to represent the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes. Later miners renamed it because they thought it looked like the opening to a mine or Stollen.
The original recipe for Stollen contained no dairy products. Historically, the Advent season was a time for fasting and things like milk and butter were not allowed. So the original Stollen was hard and relatively tasteless. In 1674 Prince Elector Ernst and his brother Duke Albrecht petitioned the Pope to allow their bakers to use butter. The Pope granted them a “butter-letter” which allowed only them the use of dairy during the fasting period. A few years later other bakers were also allowed to use butter but they had to pay a fine. The fines for using butter stopped when Saxony became Protestant.
Every year in Dresden they hold the Dresden Stollen Festival. It occurs on the Saturday before the 2nd Sunday of Advent, which is December 9th this year. Over 700,000 people take part in a day which includes a parade and the ceremonial cutting of the 3 to 4 ton giant Stollen by the Royal Master Baker and the Stollen Maiden. Pieces of the giant Stollen are sold to guests with part of the money generated going to charity.
The recipe below is from Mimi Sheraton’s wonderful cookbook The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking. It is on pages 450-451 and is bookended by two other recipes for Christmas breads. While researching the history of Stollen, I also found this was the recipe promoted by the German Embassy in Canada.
Makes 3 loaves
1-1/2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped citron
1 cup chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup rum
6 to 8 slivered blanched bitter almonds or 1 teaspoon almond extract
2 envelopes dried powdered yeast
1/2 cup luke-warm water
1 tablespoon sugar (optional - used to activate the yeast quickly)
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/3 cups butter
1 lemon rind, grated
2 tbs. rum
2 cups flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
5 to 7 cups flour
1-1/2 cups chopped blanched almonds
confectioner’s sugar (vanilla flavored is preferred)
Soak the raisins, citron, and orange peel in rum for about an hour and then drain but save the rum. Follow the directions on the package to activate the yeast in warm water. Scald the milk and add the sugar, salt, and butter. After the butter has melted, add to the mixture the rum, lemon peel, and almond extract if you are not using bitter almonds. Let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm in temperature. Add the yeast mixture to this as well as 2 cups of flour. Mix thoroughly and let it sit in a warm area with no draft until the dough blisters (about 15-30 minutes). When the dough is ready, lightly beat the eggs and add them in. Slowly mix in the additional 5-7 cups of flour until the dough is not sticky, but soft and light and smooth enough to handle.
Dry the soaked fruit and lightly dredge it with flour. Place the dough onto a thoroughly floured board to knead. While kneading, add in the fruit, almonds, and bitter almonds if you are not using the almond extract. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and blisters. Form a ball and put in a floured bowl. Brush the dough with melted butter, cover with a thin towel, and place in a warm, draft-less area to rise for about an hour. The dough should double in bulk. Punch the dough down and divide into three smaller balls.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and then roll each ball into an oval about 3/4 of an inch thick. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle a small amount of sugar over them. Fold each oval in half length-ways so the edge of the top half doesn’t quite meet the edge of the bottom half. Place all three loaves on a buttered baking sheet and again brush with melted butter. Allow the loaves to rise in a draft-free, warm area until they double in bulk again (about 1 hour).
Preheat your oven to 425° F. First bake the loaves for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350° F. Bake the loaves for roughly 45 minutes. The loaves are done when they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. While still warm, brush the loaves with melted butter and generously sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar over them. The confectioner’s sugar should cover the top of the loaves like an icing.
Stollen is served in 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch slices and sprinkled with additional confectioner’s sugar. It does store well in a cool place (not in the refrigerator).
As posted at Just Baking.
The photo used was taken from the Flickr account of Rene Schwietzke and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.