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Latest page update: 29 December 2018
Weihnachtsstollen (Christstollen) mit Marzipan
A Stollen is a bread made of a yeast dough that is sweet and (very) rich in butter, with raisins and/or currants, and candied orange and/or lemon peel in it. It is often covered with icing and/or powdered sugar and has a core of marzipan. The typical shape is oblong and relatively flat. In Germany, this type of pastry bread is traditionally eaten around Christmas, hence "Weihnachtsstollen" or "Christstollen".
The name "Stollen" probably dates back to the medieval German word "Stollo" for (support) post or log. Before the 1500s, Stollen actually did not contain butter, as this decadent indulgence was not allowed during the pre-Christmas "Advent" fasting period. Then a pope gave his permission, initially only for royal families, and (of course) only against a fee per loaf. Sugar, almonds, raisins and spices do not seem to appear in the recipes until the early 1700s.
Stollen can be baked in a loaf pan ("Stollenbackform"). However, this is not allowed for "Dresdner" Stollen - they must be "free" baked on a baking sheet.
A classic "Stollenbackform" and a modern, non-stick pan (note the lengthwise ridge on the top)
Marzipan probably originated in Persia (present-day Iran) and came to Europe in the Middle Ages with the Arabs (notably in Spain) and the Turks. The name may have Persian or Arab roots, or be derived from the medieval Sicilian "marzapane". It found its way to northern Germany and the Baltic countries via the ports of the Hanseatic League.
In Germany, a distinction is made between "Marzipan" and "Marzipanrohmasse". The latter is a marzipan almond paste that is made of 2/3 blanched and peeled almonds (of which no more than 12% bitter almonds) and 1/3 sugar. This is then heated to reduce the water content. Sometimes almond extract and/or rosewater is added to enhance the almond flavor. Such almond paste is what is typically used inside pastries. Regular marzipan has a (much) lower almond content and (much) more sugar. It is often colored with food dye and made into small shapes (fruits, animals, ...), or rolled into sheets to cover cakes.
A slice of my Stollen: baked in a loaf pan (left) and baked without a pan, on a baking sheet
I adapted this recipe from a 2007 recipe prepared by Alfons Schuhbeck during a cooking show on German television.
- Preparation time: 20 minutes.
- The fruit filling must be made 1 day before making the bread!
- Bake time: 60 minutes.
- Making clarified butter: 40 minutes. This can be done several days before making the bread!
- Must be made at least 7-10 days before serving! Must be kept at cool place.
- Makes 2 loaves of about 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs each), or several smaller loaves.
- Ingredients for the fruit mix:
- 120 grams sliced almonds (D: gehobelte Mandeln, Mandelblättchen, F: amandes effillées), toasted.
- 250 grams currants (D: Korinthen, F: raisins de Corinthe, NL: krenten).
- 250 grams dark raisins. I prefer Thompson raisins.
- 300 grams moist candied fruit mix, diced (D: 200 grams Orangeat + 100 grams Zitronat, F: macédoine de fruits confits).
- 1 tablespoon almond extract (not artificial flavoring!; D: Bittermandelaroma; F: arôme d'amande amère).
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) dark rum.
- My all-time favorite dark rum for mixed drinks, cooking and deserts is Meyers's Original Dark Rum from Jamaica.
- 1 (fresh) vanilla bean.
- Zest of 1 untreated orange.
- Zest of 1 untreated lemon.
- Ingredients for the dough:
- 150 ml lukewarm milk.
- 100 grams fresh baker's yeast.
- This is sold in small blocks, in the bakery/pastry department of good supermarkets. It is kept in the refrigerator. My local supermarkets sell them in standard cubes of 25 or 40 grams.
- If you live in an area where this is not available, you can try and use packages of dry baker's yeast granules (I have never tried this, though). Dry yeast typically has 1/3 the weight of fresh yeast, so you would need about 33 grams. Standard envelopes are 8 grams (equivalent to 24 grams fresh yeast) - but: check the label!
- 100 grams honey.
- I always use orange blossom honey, as it is by far the tastiest. The flavor of honey from flowers such as lavender and acacia is much too strong!
- 520 grams cake/pastry flour (D: Type 405; F: type 45), divided into 200 grams and 350 grams.
- 300 grams all-purpose flour (D: Type 550; F: type 55; US: all-purpose / bread flour).
- 2 eggs.
- 2 egg yolks.
- 400 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature (take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before making the dough).
- 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt.
- Ingredients for the almond paste filling:
- 400 grams almond paste (D: Marzipanrohmasse) with at least 50% almond content.
- Do not use cheap, white or colored marzipan. It usually has potatoes and/or beans in it, and no more than 20-30% almonds.
- If the almond paste is approaching (or beyond) its expiration date ( = dry and dark), it may be dry and hard. Add 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream or whole milk; or 2-3 tablespoons of real rosewater; or: a combination of egg yolk, cream/milk, rosewater.
- Additional ingredients:
- 350 grams unsalted butter (for making 250 grams clarified butter)
- Depending on where you live, you can also buy clarified butter: "Butterschmalz" in Germany (sometimes called "Bavarian olive oil"), and "ghee", if you have an Oriental supermarket with Indian products. But it is easy enough to make yourself. It also keeps well, and can be heated to higher temperatures than butter.
- 300 grams real vanilla sugar
- Do not use artificially flavored sugar - it has no vanilla in it. In the USA, do not use the white fluffy stuff that is sold as vanilla powder.
- Powdered sugar (F: "sucre glace").
- Some butter, at room temperature (for greasing the loaf pans)
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- Large frying pan (for toasting the slivered almonds).
- Medium size bowl (for the fruit mix).
- Medium size bowl for the flour.
- Plastic kitchen film (cling wrap).
- Large bowl (for the dough).
- Wire whisk (for loosening up the flour).
- Wooden spoon.
- Accurate kitchen scale.
- Measuring dry ingredients by volume is not a good idea, as the amount of ingredient then depends on how tightly you pack it.
- I use an inexpensive electronic kitchen scale.
- Kitchen machine with dough hook.
- Plastic kitchen foil.
- Medium size sauce pan with heavy bottom, or pan with regular bottom plus a diffuser (to be placed between the pan and the stove burner).
- Rolling pin.
- Decide if you want to bake the loaves on a baking sheet or in loaf pans (see photo immediately above). Personally, I find the pan-baked loaves easier to handle than the flatter sheet-baked loaves. After baking, the hot loaves have to be manipulated to brush them with warm clarified butter on all sides, and then cover them with sugar on all sides. Large, flat loaves tend to break up when you do this...
- If baking "free-style" on a baking sheet: oven paper (parchment), enough to fold twice ( = 3 layers) and cover the entire baking sheet.
- If baking in cake/loaf pans, the amount of dough is enough for:
- 2 large cake/loaf pans of about 25x10x2½ cm (10x4x2¾ inch). This is about the maximum size you should make, to avoid breaking the loaves when manipulating them!
- 3 medium size loaf pans of about 24x9x6 cm (9½x3½x2½ inch; 1 liter / 1 quart). This works very well, and actually makes loaves that are easier to handle than larger loaves, or flatter Stollen that are baked without a pan. In this case, increase the amount of almond paste from 300 grams to 450 grams (1 lb).
- 1 medium size loaf pan of about about 24x9x6 cm (9½x3½x2½ inch), plus + 4 small "gift size" loaf pans of about 14x8x5 cm (5½x3x2 inch). See photo at the bottom of this page.
- An option in-between sheet-baking and pan-baking, is using a baking sheet and two fixed (or adjustable) baking frames that are rectangular or oblong (see photos below).
- Meat thermometer (for checking the core temperature of the loaf); I use an inexpensive electronic one.
- If you don't have one, use a metal skewer to check doneness of the baking.
- 2 wire racks (cake rack / cooling rack), large enough to hold a loaf.
- Brush (for basting the hot baked loaf with melted butter).
- Aluminium kitchen foil.
Adjustable stainless-steel baking frames
PREPARATION / DIRECTIONS
- Instructions for the fruit mix - make 1 day ahead of baking:
- Put all the fruit mix ingredients (including the scraped out bean) in medium size bowl, fold over several times to mix well and coat with rum.
- Cover the bowl with plastic kitchen foil.
- Let sit for 24 hours (or at least overnight) at room temperature.
- Stir every couple of hours.
The fruit mix, steeping overnight - right: candied fruit mix and toasted sliced almonds
- Instructions for the pre-dough:
- Make sure the milk is lukewarm/tepid and put into the bowl of your kitchen machine.
- Add the honey.
- This is easiest to do by putting the bowl on the kitchen scale and adding honey with a spoon until you have added 100 grams.
- If the honey is very thick (it should easily drip off the spoon), you can make it more fluid by briefly heating it up the honey jar (without the metal lid!!!) in the microwave oven - 10 sec max (!!).
- With your fingers, break up the blocks of yeast and add to the milk.
- Whisk to fully dissolve the honey and the yeast - make sure you get the yeast that sticks to the bottom of the bowl.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk the 200 grams of the 520 grams cake/pastry flour, to loosen it up and get rid of clumps, if any.
- Using a whisk is much quicker and easier (incl. cleaning) than using a flour sifter!
- Add the flour to the milk mix.
- With a large (wooden) spoon, mix until the mass is smooth - make sure to dissolve all the lumps!
- Instructions for the dough:
- Lightly beat the the eggs and the egg yolks, and mix into the pre-dough.
- Dice 100 grams of the 400 grams of the butter into the pre-dough, about a tablespoon at a time.
- Put the rest of the flour (320 grams of the cake/pastry flour, and the 300 grams all-purpose flour) in a bowl and whisk.
- Add the flour mix to the pre-dough.
- Thoroughly knead with the dough hook (speed level 1 or 2 on a 5-speed scale, briefly speed up once in a while).
- Continue kneading, and bit by bit, add the rest of the butter.
- Continue kneading for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is completely soft and smooth.
- Briefly increase the speed (to level 3 or 4 on a 5-speed scale) and check if the dough forms into a ball that detaches from the bowl. If it does not, stop the machine, spread a tablespoon of flour over the dough, and check again. Repeat if necessary (but you should not need more than a couple of tablespoons of flour in total).
- Scrape the dough al the way down the inside of the bowl with a spatula, dust the dough with some flour, and cover the bowl with plastic kitchen foil.
- Let rise at room temperature for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Sprinkle the salt over the dough and briefly mix into the dough.
- Fold over the fruit mix one more time, remove the vanilla bean, and add the fruit mix to the dough.
- Briefly knead with the dough hook at low speed until the fruit mix is well incorporated.
- Note: the elastic dough is yummy all by itself!
- Instructions for the almond paste filling:
- Crumble the almond paste into a bowl.
- If the almond paste is dry (typically the case when the paste is well beyond its recommended expiration date): soften it by heating it in the microwave oven for 30 second - but do not use a metal bowl
- If that doesn't help: add a beaten egg yolk and a tablespoon of heavy cream, and knead. Alternatively, use a 2-3 tablespoons of (real) rose water and knead; this also a standard way to enhance the almond flavor.
- Mix thoroughly and knead well (this takes some elbow grease and a strong fork).
- Shape the paste into a ball and cut in half, then dust with powdered sugar.
- On a flour-dusted counter, roll each half into a round bar of about 30 cm (12 inch) long (almost the length of the pan) and 3 cm (1½ inch) diameter.
- I pre-shape each bar, then wrap them in kitchen foil, and do the final shaping.
- Instructions for the clarified butter:
- Note: the purpose is to remove water and milk solids from the butter, and end up with only the tasty butter fat! This is done at low temperature, as the butter should not turn brown at all!
- Cut 350 grams of unsalted butter into pieces.
- Melt the butter at lowest heat in a heavy duty pan, while stirring occasionally.
- When all the butter is completely melted, slightly increase the heat.
- Small bubbles will begin to form and the water in the butter will begin to evaporate; white foam will float to the surface and white protein parts will form on the bottom of the pan.
- Keep at a slow rolling boil.
- When all the water is evaporated, the temperature of the butter will go up by itself!
- Stir regularly!
- The white milk solids will slowly caramelize (only the milk solids, not the clear yellow butter fat!!!).
- When all the white flakes have disappeared (some white froth will remain on top) and have turned into brownish granules on the bottom, turn off the heat and let rest for a couple of minutes.
- Scoop off the white foam with a spoon.
- Carefully pour off the clarified butter, making sure to leave the brown granules in the pan!
- Can be kept in the refrigerator for several months (will be white and solid when cold).
Making clarified butter - not difficult!
- Instructions for the Stollen - this is for making two large same-size loaves!:
- Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C (350 °F) with circulation fan OFF.
- On a flour-dusted work surface, cut the dough ball in half and dust each half with flour - see photo below
The complete dough ball, and the the dough ball cut into two parts
- Roll out each half into an oval shape (or press by hand), about 1-1½ cm thick (½ inch), 35 cm wide, 45 cm long.
- Place a bar of almond paste on the dough and fold the dough over the almond paste and over onto itself - see the diagram and photos below:
- Fold the dough over the almond bar and lightly push the dough against it, such that there is no space around the length of the almond paste bar
- Fold the opposite end of the dough over onto itself
- Roll and push the latter folded dough-flap up against the dough-covered almond paste
- Pinch the tips of the resulting loaf, such that the almond bar is not visible
How to fold-over the dough (see photos below)
One dough part rolled out, and a bar of almond paste added
(note: as I really like almond paste, I use a bit more than the recipe calls for)
The dough folded over the bar of almond paste (left), the other side of the dough is folded over on itself
Two loaves, ready to be baked without a Stollen pan or a loaf pan
- If baking in traditional Stollen-pans with a lid:
- Lightly grease the pans with butter and lightly dust with flour (tap to remove all excess flour)
- Put each dough-loaf in a pan, seam-side up
- Close the lid of the pans
- Let the dough rise for another 15 minutes, then put in the oven
- If baking on a baking sheet, without loaf pans (but possibly with baking frames):
- Cover the baking sheet (large enough for two stollen) with twice-folded (i.e., 3 layers) of oven paper
- Put both loaves on the paper, seam-side up
- Make sure that the loaves do not touch, as the loafs will sag and spread out somewhat
- Let the dough rise for another 15 minutes before putting in the oven
- If baking in cake/loaf pans - see photos below:
- Lightly grease the pans with butter and lightly dust with flour (tap to remove all excess flour)
- Put each dough-loaf in a pan, seam-side down
- Let rise 15-30 minutes
Here, using two cake/loaf pans (greased and dusted with flour)
This time, using one larger cake/loaf pan and four smaller ones
- Put the baking pans or the baking sheet with the loaves at about mid-height in the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes - with the oven's circulation fan OFF.
- An inserted metal skewer must come out clean - be careful not to stick the skewer into the almond paste, as it will look like it is not done baking yet!
- If you insert a meat thermometer, it should read 96-98 °C (205-210 °F).
Still hot, ready to be brushed with clarified butter and covered with vanilla sugar and powdered sugar
- If using pans, remove the loaves from the pans (put a cake rack on top of the pan, turn over, tap the bottom of the pan - if necessary)
- Heat up the clarified butter until completely liquid.
- While the loaves are still hot/warm, generously brush them on all sides with the hot liquid clarified butter - careful: the loaves are quite fragile while hot, don't break them when rolling them over, lifting them, or putting them straigt up!
- Cover the loafs on all sides with the vanilla sugar.
- Generously cover the loaves on all sides with powdered sugar.
- Let the loaves cool completely.
- Wrap each loaf in aluminum kitchen foil, making sure to fold-over and crimp the seams (it needs to be airtight; e.g. in a gallon-size ziplock freezer bag, with the air sucked out).
- Keep in cool place for at least 1 week (!!), to let the dough soften a bit, and the flavors fully develop (it will be OK to eat several hours after baking, but the dough will be on the dry side). On the northern hemisphere, it is winter around Christmas and I just put them outside on my terrace, in a shady spot (≈5-10 °C, 40-50 °F)
Finished brushing with butter and covering with sugar
- To clean dough off the bowl and utensils, always use cold water first! With warm/hot water, the dough becomes very gooey, goopy, sticky, hard to remove, and will also be hard to get off your dishwashing brush or sponge.
- I sometimes make a loaf or two for Easter instead of Christmas.