Stollen, A Delicious Alternative to Christmas “Fruit Cake”
Just about everyone has stories about the fruit cake Aunt Bessie or some other relative gives them for Christmas each year. You know, the one that gets used as a brick to prop open the window the rest of the year…
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As a kid I would hear these stories and wonder why everyone hated fruit cake so bad. I loved it. Then one year someone gave me one of those “fruit cakes” and I realized I had never had the “fruit cake” others were talking about. In my family fruit cakes were a delicious boiled raisin cake my grandma used to make, and Stollen, the traditional German fruit cake. If you haven’t had Stollen, you owe it to yourself to try it.
Stollen is a traditional German bread usually eaten during the Christmas season, when it is called Weihnachtsstollen (after “Weihnachten”, the German word for Christmas) or Christstollen (after Christ).
The reason Stollen is such a welcome relief from the usual fruit cake is that it is yeast bread, not a cake. I would say it is like a fruit cake only because it has dried fruits and nuts it such as candied orange peel, raisins, almonds.
Just as a true Danish pastry is flakier and lower in sugar than the US counterparts, Stollen dough is low in sugar (though the fruits have a high sugar content). The bread is slathered with melted unsalted butter and rolled in sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, resulting in a moister product that keeps better.
Unless you are really into baking breads, Stollen is not what I consider to be one of the easier recipes to make. I find there is usually a nice selection of them in the food section at Cost Plus (formerly Pier One) around Christmas time. The Marzipan Stollen is the best in my opinion (Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar or honey and ground almonds that is layered in with the Stollen dough).
I can’t recommend enough that you try it this Holiday season. And once Aunt Bessie has a slice of it at your house, she might just stop bringing you those window props every year for Christmas.