Joe and I and our daughters have been enjoying a couple of Christmas traditions for over forty years. The first tradition is that on the weekend following Thanksgiving we put up our Christmas tree and start to decorate our house inside and out, and the second tradition is that a week or so later I make German Christmas stollen. But our Florida kitchen is much smaller than the ones in our Minnesota homes, so the recipe I use these days for delicious bite-size German Christmas stollen is much easier and faster than the recipe that I used to make, and it includes spiced rum!
Christmas wouldn’t be the same for me if we didn’t have lots of decorations, so I still spend a few days putting up new ones and thinking of new ways to use old favorites.
The stollen recipe that I started making in the 1970s came from Joe’s paternal great-grandmother and was hand written in German. I had to take it to the German teacher at our local high school to get it translated. That recipe makes eight huge loaves of stollen and includes four packages of yeast, 3 lbs of fruit and nuts, more than five pounds of flour, over two pounds of butter, and a half dozen eggs. I always had to knead it by hand, which takes about 30 minutes, while slivered almonds and dried fruit fly all over the kitchen.
The loaves are so big that I could only bake four at a time in a full-size oven and I’d have to find a cool spot to set the other four loaves to keep them from over-proofing. But the rewards were well worth the effort because the stollen was so wonderful. We’d give at least one loaf to Joe’s parents, one to each of his siblings, one to my parents, and we’d still have enough stollen to enjoy for a couple of months.
Many recipes for German Dresden stollen traditionally include dried and candied fruit and often include nuts as well. In what is known as bakers’ percentages, the German Bakers’ Association requires that stollen be at least 30% butter and 60% dried fruit. In addition to plenty of butter, Joe’s Great-Grandma Gealow’s recipe has golden raisins, Zante currants, candied citron, and blanched slivered almonds so that’s what I use no matter which stollen recipe I make.
In case you’ve never heard of it, citron is “a large fragrant citrus fruit with a thick rind. It is one of the four original citrus fruits (the others being pomelo, mandarin and papeda), from which all other citrus types developed through natural hybrid speciation or artificial hybridization”, according to Wikipedia. It’s also the only candied fruit that I like because it’s not as sweet as other kinds. Citron can be somewhat difficult to find (I actually ordered it from Amazon this year because none of the grocery stores around here had it until a couple of days ago), so German Christmas stollen can be made with your choice of candied fruits or with only dried fruits. Dried cherries, dried pineapple, dried cranberries, or other dried fruits can be used instead of the ones that I prefer for this recipe.
On the advice of the owner of our neighborhood liquor store (which sadly went out of business a few months ago), I now use Sailor Jerry spiced rum for baking but Captain Morgan spiced rum also produces good results.
In baking, a sponge is a pre-ferment used in some yeast bread recipes and is usually started 30 minutes to an hour before adding it to the rest of the final dough ingredients. Starting rich stollen dough with a sponge strengthens the final dough and helps it rise to a greater volume without using a lot of yeast, which can negatively affect the flavor. A sponge starter also helps to improve the crumb.
After I got the sponge going, I realized that I had forgotten to take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften so I cut it into little pieces and put it on a plate, then put it in a slightly warmer spot in the house. Don’t be tempted to use your microwave because melted butter makes heavy stollen.
The relatively large quantity of fruits and nuts is why kneading a smaller amount of dough in a stand mixer makes the process much easier. The deep bowl contains all the nuts and fruit that used to fly all over the kitchen when I had to knead twelve or fourteen pounds of dough by hand.
After the dough has doubled, I take it out and divide it into quarters, then try to evenly divide it again into nine pieces from each quarter. You can make slightly larger pieces or even make two small loaves, if you prefer. I use a half-sheet pan and a quarter-sheet pan to accomodate the 36 dough balls.
These little dough balls take less than 20 minutes to bake, then are rolled in melted butter followed by sugar–either granulated or powdered.
German stollen in any size is always a welcome gift and pretty tins make a nice presentation. Just line the tin with parchment and fill ‘er up.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for baking and sewing and decorating the whole house inside and out and cooking and entertaining and spending time with family and friends. German Christmas Stollen is perfect for Christmas or New Year’s Day breakfast with coffee, as a treat with a glass of wine while you trim the tree, or to warm up after carolling (or shoveling snow) with a steaming hot mug of cider. These are little bites of stollen pleasure!
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Thanks, and bon appetit!
- 1/2 cup (2-3/4 oz, 78 grams) zante currants
- 1/2 cup (3 oz, 84 grams) golden raisins
- 1/2 cup (3-1/2 oz, 100 grams) candied citron
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid oz) spiced rum such as Sailor Jerry or Captain Morgan
- 2-1/4 teaspoons (1 pkg) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid oz) water, lukewarm
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid oz) whole milk, lukewarm
- 1 cup (4 1/4 oz, 120 grams) all-purpose flour
- all of the sponge
- 2-1/2 cups (10-1/2 oz, 300 grams) all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 grams) softened butter
- 1/3 cup (2-3/8 oz, 67 grams) granulated sugar
- 1-1/4 teaspoons regular table salt or 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of a large lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz, 71 grams) slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 113 grams) butter, melted
- 1-1/2 cups (10-1/2 oz, 300 grams) granulated sugar or 2 cups (8 oz, 227 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted plus additional for serving.
- Combine the fruit and spiced rum in a jar or bowl with a tight cover, and set aside for 2 hours or overnight, shaking or stirring occasionally.
- To make the sponge, combine the water and yeast and allow to sit for a few minutes, then whisk in the milk and flour until smooth.
- Cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.
- To make the dough, combine the sponge and the dough ingredients (except for the fruit and almonds) in the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat paddle attached, and mix until all the flour is mostly incorporated.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes on medium low until the dough is soft, smooth, and shiny, then add the soaked fruits, along with any liquid, and almonds.
- Knead until the fruit and nuts are well distributed.
- Cover the dough and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours till puffy and almost doubled.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled counter and divide it into 36 pieces, rolling each piece into a smooth ball.
- Place the balls on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1" between them. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, until the balls are puffy.
- Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 18 to 22 minutes, until they're light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes then roll in melted butter, then in either granulated or sifted powdered sugar.
- Allow to cool completely before storing in plastic bags.
- Store at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for longer storage.
If you prefer to use powdered sugar for covering the stollen, you'll want to roll them in powdered sugar again just before serving.
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