Served during the holidays, this sweet German bread laden with dried fruit, nuts and dusted with powdered sugar wasn’t always the treat we know today. In 14th century Germany, the use of butter or milk was forbidden during the advent season and stollen contained only flour, oil and water and was a food to be eaten during times of fasting.
In 1491, bakers in Saxony petitioned the church to allow the use of butter for advent baking. Their request was granted to a select few. Others were permitted the privilege as well, but only when a tribute was paid. The Christmas bread was transformed when the ban was lifted. Soon the use of dairy and other rich ingredients, including candied fruits, nuts and rum made the bread a coveted baked good considered the food of royalty. Dresden became the city most associated with the regal bread and, even today, fewer than 150 bakers are permitted to use the seal that indicates the Christmas bread can be sold as “Dresden Christstollen.”
Today, stollen is a beloved staple of the holidays either baked at home or available for purchase a few weeks each year. Recipes vary widely and the meager loaf that once represented sacrifice is now a rich and flavorful seasonal delight.
Try your hand at this advent bread with this easy recipe for the traditional bread. And if anyone asks if you bought this delicious holiday fruit bread with a royal pedigree, tell them no. It’s stollen.
Yes, I hear you groaning. But as I bake this bread each December, that terrible joke is part of my holiday tradition.
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/4 cup brandy, rum or apple juice
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 6 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm milk
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Combine raisins, cherries, cranberries, orange zest and brandy. Cover, shake and set aside.
Sift together flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.
Add warm (not hot) milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla and mix until dough holds together.
Add raisin mix and almonds to dough and mix to fully integrate.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and pliant.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl.
Cover and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size.
Punch dough down, divide into two pieces and roll into two flat ovals about 8×12 inches.
Brush dough with melted butter.
Combine cinnamon and brown sugar and sprinkle over dough to coat.
Fold ovals in half lengthwise and pinch edges to seal.
Place loaves on a greased baking sheet, cover and allow to rise 45 minutes.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Once cool, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Originally: Advent Stollen Recipe