I’m not at all sure when I first tasted Stollen. My first memory is of a fruity bread with marzipan in the middle. Always marzipan in the middle. Until I started researching this post, I thought that was the standard recipe but I discovered many different versions.
Why make your own Stollen? It’s a great seasonal treat with its light buttery texture great for those who are not so keen on Christmas cake. It also makes a wonderful present for a foodie.
A little stollen history
The word stollen means a post or boundary marker for a town. Stollen cakes have made for hundreds of years in Germany probably as early as the 1400s. The recipe has changed over the years to reflect availability of ingredients. It was originally made during the Lenten season when butter and milk couldn’t be used. Two men Kurfürst Ernst and his brother Albrech petitioned the Pope and the ban was finally overturned in 1647. So the rich, buttery bread that we know came into being.
Stollen was frequently baked in huge, long loaves. One over 18 kilos in weight and 5 feet long was presented to the King of Saxony in 1536. Later, in 1730, again in Saxony, a stollen “weighing 1.8 tons, 27 feet long and 18 feet wide and a foot high was to be the be the highlight of the Zeithainer Lustlagerfestival”. As you can imagine, a special oven had to be constructed to bake it in.
More recently Dresden bakers have created giant stollen. One, weighing in at 3000 kilos. The loaf was made up of 400 smaller pieces, each weighing eight kilos. Around 1.2 tons of flour, 750 kilograms of butter, 200 kilograms of sugar and 1.5 million raisins went into the stollen which took 60 bakers a week to construct.
Creating my version of Stollen
We were particularly fond of the stollen made by German Bakery Falco in Edinburgh which appeared each year on their stall in Edinburgh’s farmers’ market. However, others we tasted were far too dry, possibly as they were made a long time in advance. What recipe should I choose? I was looking for a light tasty dough with just the right amount of fruit and marzipan. It should be soft and tender
All the recipes I consulted include dried fruit, butter (lots of butter) and are based on a sweet brioche style dough.
Which stollen recipe?
First of all I turned to my favourite book for sweet doughs, A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets. From a Hungarian backgroud, George Greenstein ran his bakery for many years in New York (he passed away in 2012). I particularly appreciate his detailed descriptions of filling, icings and ‘sprinklings’. His brief introduction each recipe is deeply evocative. You can smell the bakes just from his description. The book however, has no photographs. Googling images is often necessary!
His recipe for “triple butter stollen” includes 10 egg yolks (gulp!) to a kilo of flour, 450 grams of butter (45%) and 1650 gr fruit (167%). This might just be going a little too far. However, his descriptions of how to make the dough, shape it and how to dose it with butter before and after are what I choose to follow. I also finish the stollen with cinnamon sugar at his suggestion.
I recently acquired Zingerman Bakehouse‘s cookery book and have been thoroughly enjoying working through many of the recipes. Their stollen recipe had just one egg and 330 grams of fruit to 365 grams (96%) of flour and 150 gr butter (41%). The use of rum butter to brush the stollen sounded a great addition. Just leave the rum out if you prefer.
I most closely followed Richard Bertinet’s stollen recipe. As with all of his recipes it is fuss free. He uses 4 eggs, 480 grams of fruit (48%) and 200 grams of butter to a kilo (20%). I added more spice, toasted pecans and added a roll of marzipan rather than the pieces he suggests. He also adds creme d’amande a mixture of butter, sugar, ground almonds and egg.
My version turns out to be light and delicious and a great addition to your Christmas delights. If you are a big marzipan lover you can add twice as much. Look for one with a high percentage of almonds in the marzipan you buy (some have only 20%). I used Odense Mandelmassa Almond Paste available through Ocado which has 50% almonds.
Danielle’s Stollen Recipe
There are plenty of stages in this recipe which you can fit into your day whilst you’re working on other things. Enjoy making it!
Danielle's Stollen Recipe
- Stand mixer, baking trays, pastry brush, tea towels or large plastic bags
- 1000 gr bread flour plus extra for dusting
- 20 gr fresh yeast
- 60 gr caster sugar
- 500 ml whole milk at room temperature or warm slightly
- 250 gr unsalted butter
- 10 gr salt
- 4 large eggs
- For the filling
- 200 gr raisins
- 100 gr dried or glace cherries roughly chopped
- 150 gr mixed peel roughly chopped
- 50 gr candied ginger roughly chopped
- 60 gr pecans toasted
- 70 ml rum For soaking fruit
- 10 gr ground cinnamon
- 400 gr marzipan
- For soaking the stollen
- 100 gr unsalted butter
- 30 ml rum Optional
- 50 gr icing sugar
- Cinnamon sugar
- 50 gr caster sugar
- 15 gr ground cinnamon
- Put all the dried fruits in a bowl and add the rum. Soak for as long as possible. Overnight is ideal.
- Use a stand mixer if possible to mix this dough. Add the flour to the mixing bowl, lightly rub in the fresh yeast. Add the sugar, salt and 10 gr cinnamon. Mix the eggs and milk together and add to the dry mixture. Mix on a low speed for about 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix a further 3 minutes.
- Turn down to a low speed and add cubed butter. Allow to mix in roughly for a further 3 minutes, then increase the speed to medium. When the mixture comes away from the bowl cleanly it is ready.
- Shape into a ball and return to the mixing bowl to prove (about 1.5 hours) covered with a just damp tea towel. The dough will rise considerably. Alternatively when mixed place in fridge and leave overnight.
- Toast the pecans in the oven or in a hot pan. Be careful they do not burn. Chop roughly.
- Melt 100 grams of butter when you are ready to work on the dough. You'll use this in the following stages. You might need to remelt it.
- Flour your work surface. Turn the dough out and use a rolling pin to roll out to a rectangle. Exact size is not important.
- Lightly spread some of the melted butter over the dough. Scatter the soaked fruit filling mixture. Lightly roll the fruit into the dough to make it easier to fold it.
- Fold up one third of the dough, then fold the 2nd third over. Turn and fold in 3 again. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will make it much easier to shape.
- Form your marzipan into one long sausage and cut into 4 even pieces weighing 100 grams
- Take the dough out of the fridge and cut into 4 equal pieces. Roll each one out to a rectangle about 1.5 cm thick. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with the chopped pecans and place your marzipan in the middle. Press it down lightly.
- Fold the bottom half of the dough over the marzipan roll and press the dough down lightly. Fold the top half of the dough over what you've just folded leaving a 1 cm strip. To give the stollen its traditional shape, press your palms down on one third of the dough. Press down on all open edges lightly.
- Place the stollens on two baking sheets allowing plenty of space for them to expand. Leave for a further 1.5 hours to prove. Cover with a large plastic sheet or tea towels to avoid them drying out.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4 and hour before you put the stollen in. Brush again with butter before you put them in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until light golden. Prepare your cinnamon sugar by mixing the cinnamon and caster sugar together. Add rum to your remaining melted butter if you are using it.
- As soon as the stollen are baked, prick all over the dough with a fork and with a pastry brush, brush all over with butter. Do this a second time.
- Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar whilst still warm not when cooled.
- Before serving dust with icing sugar. Well wrapped, this will last a week in a cool place or freeze and use when required.
Why not try my Christmas Tear and Share Pesto Bread?
Want to learn more about breadmaking? Read my Bake Better Bread series