This traditional German bread, packed with fruit and marzipan, is often bought over the Christmas period. It's straight forward to make and is certainly a treat not to miss out on!
Mmm, Stollen! It's such a delicious Christmas treat, packed full of fruit, butter and marzipan, I can't quite believe that this is the first year that I've tried Stollen. Truly it is! It's passed me by for so many years, how I have managed to enjoy so many Christmases without a slice or two of Stollen I will never know. It's even more remarkable given my love of marzipan! I just love the stuff! Now that I have tried this wonderful bread I can categorically say that it will feature in our family's Christmases for many a festive season to come.
So, having never tried Stollen until this year, and wanting to try to recreate it in our own kitchen, I clearly needed to do a little reading. I knew that it was a German bread, but my reading enlightened me and I learnt that it specifically originated in Dresden in the Middle Ages. The marzipan represents the baby Jesus and the dough his swaddling clothes! A little concerning given that we slice into it and eat this representation! It's so fascinating learning about where these traditions come from.
The bread dough itself is enriched through the inclusion of butter and sugar. Due to the copious amount of butter and fruit included in the dough it does take longer than usual to prove due to the weight impairing the yeast. Due to this I decided to allow the bread dough to prove slowly in the fridge overnight without the fruit. Not only does this provide less weight in the body of the dough it also encourages a slower rise which develops more flavour. Proving bread dough in the fridge is something which I do fairly regularly with our pizza dough and enriched dough like this Chollah, it certainly makes for a tastier loaf than rushing the prove in an overly warm spot.
The recipe I used as a good starting point was this, the author talked about never having found a Stollen recipe he was truly happy with until he was given this by his German friend. He soaked specific fruit in alcohol and also used lard in the dough mixture alongside butter. Wanting Mr E to be able to sample this wonderful Christmas treat, I used all butter in our version. I also used a mixed packet of dried fruits which I bought in Aldi. It was described as 'luxury dried mixed fruit', and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the mixture which not only contained the obligatory raisins, sultanas and candied peel but also glace cherries, and dried pineapple, cranberries and apricot. I decided to soak our fruit in orange juice rather than alcohol as orange and marzipan work so well together. The original recipe also made 4 loaves, but wanting to be able to knead this by hand I reduced the quantities which made it far more manageable.
Let's get to it and bake.
Freezable: Sorry, untested
Time: hands on time 30 minutes, 50 - 60 minutes bake, plus proving & cooling time
Adapted from: this recipe which had been shared with the author by his German friend.
You will need:1 x medium Mixing Bowl
1 x large Mixing Bowl
1 x large Baking Tray ideally with sides
For the Bread4g easy bake dried yeast
85ml warm Milk
67g + 265g Strong White Bread Flour, plus extra for dusting
115g Unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp Salt
1 Lemon (Zest of)
The Fruit Filling250 - 300g Mixed Fruit (chop the glace cherries into smaller chunks if they are included in the mixture)
85ml Orange Juice (or alcohol if you prefer)
For the Marzipan Centre200g Marzipan
To Finish the Stollen50g Unsalted Butter, melted
How to make it:1. Soak the fruit. Place the fruit into a medium sized bowl and pour over the orange juice (or alcohol). Cover and set aside for at least 4 hours or even overnight.
2. Make a pre-dough. Place the yeast, pinch of sugar and warm milk into a Pyrex jug and stir together. Ensure your milk is not more than blood warm as it may kill the yeast. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until a sludge develops on the surface. Place the 67g of strong white bread flour into a large mixing bowl and pour over the yeast mixture. Mix together well to form a thick paste. Cover and set this aside for about an hour until it has increased in volume substantially.
3. Complete the dough. Add two-thirds of the remaining flour, all of the sugar, softened butter, salt and lemon zest. Use your hands to bring the mixture together. Tip onto a clean surface and start to knead. Add the remaining flour as the mixture becomes stickier. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. It will become stretchy and very silky in texture.
4. Test the dough. Break off a small amount of dough and stretch it with both of your hands to create a 'window pane'. If the dough stretches, without breaking, to allow you to see through the 'window pane' it is ready for the next stage. If it snaps and rips, continue kneading for a couple more minutes before retesting.
5. Prove the dough. Place the dough into a large clean bowl and cover. Either prove overnight in the fridge or elsewhere for at least an hour, until it has doubled in size. Like all breads, it will develop more favour by proving it slowly.
6. Add the fruit. Strain the soaked fruit over the sink to remove any excess liquid. Place the bread dough onto a lightly floured work surface and lightly flatten it out. Tip the fruit on top. Incorporate the fruit into the dough thoroughly. By doing this the dough will be knocked back to help re-distribute the air pockets.
7. Shape the dough. Use your fingertips to prod and shape the dough into a neat oblong measuring about 35 x 20cm so that the short side is nearest to you.
7. Add the marzipan and shape the Stollen. Shape the marzipan into a sausage about 33cm long. Lay the marzipan on the work surface and slightly flatten it so that a cross section is almost oblong. Transfer the marzipan down the centre of the dough length ways. Place the left flap of bread over the top of the marzipan. Fold the right side of bread over the top. The top of the loaf will now have a double layer of bread dough. Nip the ends of the dough to prevent the marzipan from seeping out as it cooks. Gently nip the top line of dough to close it.
8. Set aside to prove for a second time. Place the shaped Stollen onto the baking tray (ideally with sides which helps to prevent the cover from resting on the dough) which has been lined with greaseproof baking paper. Either place the baking tray in a clean plastic bag or cover it with a clean tea towel. Set aside in a warm place. If the dough had been proved in the fridge, leave the bread for 2 or 3 hours to allow it to come back to room temperature. If it was proved in a warm room this stage will take about 45 minutes.
9. Pre-heat the oven to maximum.
10. Bake. Place the shaped Stollen into the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 180c / Fan 160 / Gas 4. Allow the bread to bake for 50 - 60 minutes until it is golden brown and cooked through. The base of the bread should also be nicely browned. You may need to rotate the baking tray after 35 - 40 minutes of baking. If you find the exposed fruit is colouring too much, cover the bread with a sheet of tin foil.
11. Coat with butter and icing sugar. Once the bread is cooked remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling tray. Use a pastry brush to paint on most of the melted butter. Dust generously with sifted icing sugar. Drizzle with the remaining melted butter.
12. Cool. Set the Stollen aside to cool. Once cold dust with more sifted icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.