Did you know that in Germany the four weeks leading up to Christmas are nearly as important and greatly celebrated as Christmas itself? The time is called Advent (it’s from Latin meaning ‘coming’) and in the Christian tradition would refer to Jesus being born. Having said that Christmas in Germany is an older tradition even and many customs are based on pagan beliefs.
During the time of Advent most families will have an Advent wreath (which I actually don’t have this year) with four big candles on it. Every Sunday before Christmas Eve, a candle is lit, until on the Sunday before Christmas Eve, all four candles are burning. I can still smell the pine needles of the wreath and the smell of candles and see all the decorations around the house. Advent to me, really means that Christmas is around the corner, Christmas music can and should be played and the house can be decorated. Mind you, I don’t normally actually have a Christmas tree until a few days before Christmas. It is something that used to happen at home, so I see it as the icing on the cake, while it’s good to have stars on the windows and lights in the trees outside, and candles lit inside, the tree comes later, on the 24th to be precise. Real beeswax candles used to be on our tree at home and I still remember trying to peek through the keyhole of the living room to see if the ‘Christkind’ (a German alternative to Santa Clause) had arrived and brought the tree and lit all the candles. That excitement is still with me around Christmas and while I can’t really put candles on the trees here, I put them on the table instead.
Most importantly, the baking also starts during Advent in most families. And a traditional Stollen is meant to rest 4 weeks before eating. So now is the perfect time to share this recipe with you. Please try it for yourself, it isn’t difficult and the reward is huge! My Stollen for this year is already packed and hidden away, from myself mainly.At my first market for the season today in the beautiful village of Jamberoo, all my Stollen were sold but I will have more available at the Kiama Farmers’ Market on the 9th and 23rd of December. Just make sure you get an order in quick, if you would like to buy one rather than bake one.
So, here we go – this recipe makes 2 Stollen of the size I make for the markets. In Germany they are often double the size, but I will leave that up to you to judge.
You will need:
- 500g flour
- 3tsp dried years
- 50ml lukewarm milk
- 100g sugar
- 7g salt
- 250g butter (and a little extra for later, so about 300g)
- 100g almonds ground/finely chopped
- 325g sultanas
- 50ml rum
- 1tsp of spice mix*
- zest of one lemon
- about 50g icing sugar
On the day of baking Stollen pour all the flour into a big bowl, make a little well in the centre and add the dried yeast and the warm milk. Stir some of the flour together with the milk and the yeast to make a little bit of a starter dough. Now cover the bowl and let it rest for 30minutes.
Then add all other ingredients except for the almonds and sultanas (add sugar, salt, 250g butter at room temperature, lemon zest and the spice mix). Knead all this to a smooth dough. I do this by hand, but I would think a mixer could do the job, too, with the dough hooks. I quite enjoy the texture and seeing/feeling it all come together. Especially the butter is actually very nice on the hands, so for this job, and not many others, I leave the mixer in the cupboard!
Now add the rum soaked sultanas. You will notice that the dough gets a bit wetter. When they are in the dough you can add the almonds and you will see how they absorb the moisture again. Once done, cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest for 2 hours in a warm, draft free spot.
Then briefly knead through and form two loafs. I find it easiest to flatten them a little first into a very rough rectangle shape. Then fold up one side to a little less than the middle, and roll up the other side until they meet. Ideally, a Stollen shape looks a little bit like a coffee bean I suppose, but not quite as round.
Place them on a baking tray, lined with baking paper. Ensure they are a good distance apart as they do get a little bigger to the sides and the top. Now bake them in a preheated oven at 150°C, fan forced, for about 60 minutes.
Keep an eye on them, when they are ready they will be golden brown, but not burnt. And while they are also still a little soft when they are ready, they shouldn’t have a consistency of uncooked dough. This is really only the tricky bit, but you will get a feel for it. And it is worse to undercook it then to overcook it. Because when it cools, if will harden a bit further. And if it’s overcooked, it is just quite hard when it first comes out of the oven. But if you undercook it, no amount of second baking will rescue them – I have tried believe me!
Still hot, brush both Stollen with some melted butter. I just give them a coat each. Then dust them with icing sugar. And you can put as little or as much as you like. And once they are completely cooled, pack them into an airtight container, I use plastic bags. As mentioned earlier, they do last a long time, but I do have to hide mine from myself until Christmas. Enjoy it sliced with a cup of tea or coffee at any time of the day!
*Spice mix – the mix contains cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger, allspice, cloves and cardamom. You can mix your own, depending on how you like it, or buy it from busy lisi’s online shop. It is a ‘Gingerbread spice mix’ that I mix myself fresh every year and use both in the Nuremberg style gingerbread as well as in the Stollen.