Jeweled breads, studded with candied fruits and nuts, are hallmarks of the Christmas holiday, traditions brought by European immigrants as they settled across the United States. Fruitcake, panettone, and julekake are favorites, but for many, the Christmas stollen is king.
Christmas stollen, known in Germany as Christollen, is a rich, dense, sweet bread filled with dried fruit, candied citrus peel, marzipan or almond paste, and nuts. It hails from the city of Dresden, Germany, where it was first produced in the late 1500s.
Stollen is enjoyed throughout the year, but at the holidays, it is loaded with more fruits and nuts, items that were historically only available through importation from Italy, and therefore very expensive. Christmas stollen is rich in history, and in Germany, the recipe and ratio of ingredients is considered an important matter of tradition.
Though stollen tradition runs deep, there are many variations, and ingredients can be substituted to suit your tastes. Our recipe offers a simplified version that will mimic the shape of a classic Christmas stollen, without the anxiety of 600 years of tradition.
Stollen is not difficult to make, but it is also not a quick holiday recipe; much of the experience is in the time it takes to create it. Like any bread, there is a good deal of waiting time, but none more challenging than the aging process. Once your stollen is baked (and after it has filled your home with the smell of Christmas), it should be left to cool, then wrapped tightly and rested for three weeks.
Before mixing the dough, we soak our dried fruits in rum or other spirits. Later, while the bread ages, that flavorful liquid soaks into the bread, providing its characteristic richness and depth of flavor. If you don’t have the time to age the bread, don’t despair — it still will be delicious. Next year, you can add it to your after-Thanksgiving tradition, and your stollen will be ready just in time to unwrap with your other Christmas gifts.
Start to finish: 11 hours (Active time: 30 minutes). Makes 2 loaves, each 8-10 servings
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel
1 tablespoon candied orange peel (see note)
2 tablespoons dark rum
1½ cups bread flour (divided use)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, warmed (about 80 degrees F)
(1 packet) instant dry yeast
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon almond paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon citrus zest (lemon, orange, or a combination of both)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground clove
½ cup whole blanched almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sugar (or vanilla sugar), for rolling
The day before preparing the bread, combine the raisins, lemon peel, orange peel, and rum in a small bowl. Cover and rest at room temperature overnight.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine ¾ cup bread flour, the milk and yeast. Mix on medium speed until a dough forms, about 4 minutes. Depending on the size of your mixer, you may need to hand-knead the dough for a moment, just to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rest in a warm place (ideally around 75 degrees F) until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Uncover the bowl and add the remaining flour. Add the butter, almond paste, sugar, salt, zest, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and clove. Mix on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth but still slightly sticky, about 6 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and rest in a warm environment until nearly doubled in size, about 35 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl and gently pat into a flat circle. Add the almonds to the soaked raisin mixture and spread on top of the dough. Gently fold the sides of the dough over the raisins to enclose them in the mixture. Continue to fold the dough over itself until the raisins and almonds are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and rest for an additional 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean work surface. Divide into two equal pieces, and use the side of your hand to lightly round the dough into balls against your counter. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, use your hands to gently flatten the dough into a rough square. Fold the first top-third of the dough toward the center of the square, and then again toward the bottom, forming a loose cylinder. Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough into a log that is about 7 inches long.
With the dough parallel to the edge of counter, place a rolling pin in the center of the dough and gently roll upwards, to flatten the top half of the dough (until it is about ¾-inch thick). Fold the top of the dough toward the center, to meet the thicker, bottom portion of dough. Press it down lightly with the side of your hand to seal the seam, and transfer to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Rest the dough, uncovered, until it has puffed up slightly, about 30 minutes.
Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
When the bread is still hot but cool enough to handle, brush each loaf with melted butter. Roll in sugar and return to a cooling rack until fully cooled. You can serve the bread now, or, for a fuller flavor, wrap the cooled bread in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 weeks.
Note: If you cannot find candied citrus peel in your grocery store, you can substitute an equal amount of another dried fruit such as dark raisins, dried cranberries or dried currants.
Nutrition information per serving:
252 calories; 108 calories from fat;
12 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats);
24 mg cholesterol; 130 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 3 g protein.