Breads of Europe | Stollen (spiced fruit and nut bread)


Stollen was a heavy yeast-raised loaf with a high butter and fruit content associated with the German city of Dresden, found in the months up to the end-of-year festivities throughout Germany, and in Switzerland where it became known as stollen fest. Free-formed by hand and shaped into loaves, stollen now come in several sizes with various ingredients but it is the original stollen that is still the template for this iconic fruit bread.

Dresdner stollen, also known as Dresdner Christstollen, has an interesting history. In 1490 Pope Innocent VIII exempted Dresden‘s bakers from the 1450 ban on baking with butter during Advent (which was then a period of fasting). Today‘s Dresden bakers regard this ‘butter‘ letter as an historical document that establishes stollen as a traditional product exclusive to the food culture of their city. The two million stollen produced every year in the city are sold worldwide. A modern Dresdener stollen has a light aerated crumb, with an aromatic smell and taste.

Stollen is no longer associated exclusively with Dresdener food culture or with the festive bread tradition in Germany and Switzerland. It has become an integral aspect of Alpine food culture, with countless variations on the original ‘butter’ recipe. Butter is still prevalent but spices play a larger role in the Alpine version.

  • 1 kg white wheat flour, t550
  • 500 g raisins
  • 330 ml whey
  • 250 g butter, melted, for surface
  • 200 ml apple and pear purée
  • 200 g butter, softened
  • 175 ml kirsch
  • 150 g almonds, chopped
  • 150 g candied lemon and orange peel, fine cut
  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 150 g milk
  • 2 eggs (120 g)
  • 100 g almonds, ground
  • 50 g yeast
  • 30 g bread syrup
  • 25 g vanilla sugar
  • 20 g speculaas spices
  • 15 g honey
  • 10 g salt

Dissolve 30 g of yeast in the milk with the honey, and 200 g of the flour. Knead into a loose dough, leave for at least 16 hours.

Soak chopped almonds, peel and raisins in the kirsch.

Sieve remaining flour into a large bowl, add salt, eggs, bread syrup, spices and 300 ml of the whey. Autolyse for 60 minutes.

Dissolve remaining yeast in the vanilla sugar and remaining whey.

Add yeast mixture to the autolysed dough, fold onto a clean surface, knead for 10 minutes, divide into four equal pieces. Place fermented dough on the work surface, and with wet hands work into a soft dough. Cut into four equal pieces.

Work small pieces of the fermented dough one at a time into one of the yeast dough pieces, knead until the quarter dough is soft and smooth.

Repeat this process with the remaining fermented dough and yeast dough. Bring all four pieces of dough together, knead for a few minutes, then divide the dough into two pieces. Knead each piece until it is soft and spongy.

Leave to rise for 90 minutes, degas, leave for an hour. Divide the dough into two pieces, work the softened butter into each piece, bring together, knead until the dough is spongy.

Leave to rise again for an hour.

Work two-thirds of the fruit and nut mixture into dough. Do not knead. Leave for an hour.

Add remaining fruit and nut mixture.

Combine fruit purée with ground almonds to form a paste.

Divide dough into four equal sized pieces, shape into rectangles, then flatten each one in turn. Push fruit on the outside into the dough, don’t leave it exposed.

Fruit on the outside of the dough must be pushed inside the dough

Spread almond paste along the middle of each rectangle, take the long end and fold over, to create a tunnel shape.

Place on greased trays, leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.

Increase the heat to 195°C, bake for 15 minutes.

While still hot brush the surface with the melted butter, dust with icing sugar.

Leave to mature, then slice and eat.

Notes on Stollen

  • Traditional stollen is a long process, other stollen less so.
  • The fruit and nut content should be relatively high, it should be soaked in kirch for up to 14 days and 1 day at least.
  • Stollen should be left to to rest for 14 days (two at the least, seven is acceptable) to allow the spice flavours to mingle with the fruit, nuts and kirch.
  • Generally the butter-sugar coating is applied after the breads have cooled completely, at least eight hours or the following day. For Alpine stollen the coating is applied while the bread is still warm.
  • The spices that make up the speculaas mixture (the traditional gingerbread spices that include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom seeds and white peppercorns) can be increased, lowered and substituted. Allspice will give a subtle flavour whereas larger quantities of cinnamon and ginger will increase the organoleptic quality of the bread, and the reason why stollen should not be consumed until the flavour of the spices has matured.
  • This version has increased quantites of allspice, cinnamon and ginger plus cardamon, cloves and nutmeg, and no white peppercorns.

South Tyrol Stollen