A special treat just before Christmas in our home was when my dad would bring home a special Christmas sweet bread. It was a very rich dessert bread full of fruit and almonds. Christmas Stollen (we pronounced it Shh tollen) was different from the Fruit Cake we see all the time nowadays.
We lived among some eastern European neighbours then, and stollen, originally baked in
, became popular all over the .neighbourhood Germany
Long before Columbus discovered America, stollen was baked at Christmastime in
Dresden . The dried fruits are macerated in liquor and when the bread comes out of the oven it is then slathered with melted butter and rolled in sugar. It thus represents the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Since the 15th century, there was a Stollenfest in Germany every year, right up to the fall of the monarchy in 1918. Dresden
If you have never eaten stollen, you are in for a gustatory delight. This moist specialty bread is a little like the Italian Pannettone or the Danish Julekage, but its special shape is very appealing to Christians in particular and its flavour to everyone.
If you are a baking enthusiast, bite into some serious history here; make yourself a Christmas Stollen.
Adapted from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking, Hermes House, N.Y. 1999
Christmas Stollen 1 loaf
½ cup (115gm) golden raisins
¼ cup (60gm) currants
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum or brandy
3 ¼ cups (800ml) white flour, plus a little to sprinkle on top of batter
½ teaspoon (2ml) salt
¼ cup (50ml) sugar
¼ teaspoon (1ml) ground cardamom
½ teaspoon (2ml) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2ml) grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon (2ml) grated orange zest
1 ½ ounces (45gm) yeast
½ cup (125ml) lukewarm milk
¼ cup (50ml) melted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (100ml) candied fruit
1/3 (75ml) blanched whole almonds, chopped
Melted butter, for brushing
For The Almond Filling
1 cup (250ml) ground almonds
¼ cup (50ml) sugar
½ cup (100ml) confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon (2ml) lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
- Grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350F (180C)
- Put the raisins and currants in a heatproof bowl and put in the oven just to warm, 3-4 minutes. Pour on the liquor and set aside. Shut off the oven. Stir the fruit to immerse fully in the liquor.
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and stir in the sugar, spices and zest.
- In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the slightly warm milk.
- Pour this into the flour and stir a little of the flour from around the edge into the milk mixture to make a thick batter.
- Sprinkle some flour on top of batter, then cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Add the melted butter and egg and mix into a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
- Place in an greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours or until doubled in bulk.
- Working on the almond filling: combine the ground almonds and sugars.
- Add the lemon juice and enough egg to knead into a smooth paste.
- Shape into an 8 inch (20cm) long sausage, cover and set aside.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch down.
- Pat out the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and sprinkle on the golden raisins, currants, candied fruit and almonds.
- Fold and knead the dough to incorporate the fruit and nuts.
- Roll out the dough into an oval- about 12 X 9 inches (30 X 23 cm)
- Roll the center slightly thinner than the edges. Place the almond paste filling along the center and fold over the dough to enclose it, making sure that the top of the dough doesn’t completely cover the base. The top edge should be slightly inward from the bottom edge.
- Press down to seal.
- Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a lightly oiled or greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
- Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on its bottom.
- Brush the top liberally with melted butter and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar just prior to serving.
So that’s how to bake a Christmas Stollen. A little detailed, but these step by step instructions make the method easy to follow.
Enjoy with coffee or black tea.