What is Stollen?
Stollen is a yeast bread studded with rum-soaked dried fruit and nuts, seasoned with spices and coated with powdered sugar. My mother and brother will tell you that stollen also must have marzipan in the middle, but I’ll tell you that it’s optional. Either way – with or without marzipan – stollen is a German treat that is usually served around Christmastime.
Soaking Fruit for Stollen
For this stollen recipe, I use golden and regular raisins, dried cranberries and candied orange peel. You can make your own candied orange peel or buy it at a specialty grocery store. I found mine online. You could also add whatever fruit you like, but I really do like orange in the bread. Soak all this fruit in dark rum and soak it like you mean it – at the VERY least for 1 hour, but preferably overnight or even longer.
The dough for stollen is a sweet bread dough with butter and eggs incorporated, along with Christmas spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, along with cardamom. This recipe starts with a “poolish” – a starter dough that is allowed to fermet for a couple of hours before incorporating all the other ingredients. This enhances the flavor of the dough and is well worth it. You’re not rushing when you make stollen.
Adding Fruit to Stollen
Adding the fruit to the stollen dough can be a little tricky. You want the fruit incorporated into the dough, not resting on the top surface where it will burn in the oven. To do this most easily, flatten the dough into a large circle. Add half the fruit and press it in with your fingers. Fold the circle up in half and add the remaining fruit. Then roll the dough up into a log. Cut the log in half and shape each half into a dough round.
When it comes to shaping stollen, the goal is for the loaves of stollen to be oval in shape, which it is said represents baby Jesus swaddled in clothes. There is another story that comes from the translation of “stollen” in German, meaning post or stud. So, perhaps the shape is supposed to represent a post? I think baby Jesus is a nicer image, so I’m going with it. Either way, roll your dough into a circle. If you’re adding marzipan to your stollen, roll it into a log and place that log of marzipan in almost the center of the circle of the dough. Fold one half of the dough down over the marzipan and roll the dough over it a little to seal it in. Then fold the other half over the top, shape the loaves into ovals and place them on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.
Dusting, or really coating, the stollen with powdered sugar is an important step. Let the loaves cool and then brush with melted butter before really coating the outside of the loaves with powdered sugar. You can do this several times until the sugar really does look like a coating of snow.
Not only can you store stollen, you SHOULD store stollen. It’s flavor improves over a week or two, wrapped tightly in plastic and then in aluminum foil. Time wrapped tightly gives the rum-soaked fruit time to disperse its flavor throughout the loaf. I have a hard time putting stollen away for later, but if you plan it right, it’s the right thing to do. If you can’t wait that long… don’t. Just know that you can store the stollen at room temperature (or even freeze it) for a few weeks.
How to Serve Stollen
Stollen is often served at breakfast in Germany, but I like to move it to mid-morning or even after lunch with a cup of coffee. Slice and serve.