When thinking about some inspiration for you all, I remembered a very tasty and full of ritual pre-Christmas week spent in Munich with our German family a couple of years ago. The table was heavy with candles and homemade chocolate dipped gingerbread, strudel and sugared almonds, but the queen of the spread was Germany’s answer to Christmas cake - Stöllen.
So if you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, this crusty, fruity, almondy, zesty, boozy yeasted German bread might just scratch that itch! Whilst international travel may be off the menu this Christmas, we can certainly take our taste buds on a journey and taste the European love.
The Core Ingredients Shopping List
German Lübecka Marzipan
Spanish Marcona almonds
Italian bio/organic 00 flour
NZ roast hazelnuts
Australian spray-free muscatel raisins
Lübecker Marzipan must be tasted to be believed. The northern town of Lübeck has been the marzipan capital of the world since 1530 and once you taste it you’ll know why. With an almond content of over 70%, it has zero resemblance to that super sweet, gooey yellow layer of fondant jammed between the fruit cake and the royal icing we know here.
Almost creamy, definitely nutty and sweetened to perfection, Lübecker Marzipan will turn the most ardent of marzipan haters into lovers. But if you have an almond hater in the house, the marzipan occupies it’s own special position in the bread so those who aren't tempted can eat around it!
It’s best to make the Stöllen a couple of weeks before Christmas and store it tightly wrapped in a cool, dark place to let the flavours and texture develop. But don’t be alarmed! This recipe makes an additional smaller loaf that can be eaten as soon as it’s out of the oven slathered in butter. Trust me, move over Santa! Your family might just be more interested in this Stöllen feast this year.
Oh and also, spend an hour making the candied citrus. It’s a great way of using up left over citrus peelings and tastes so so so so much better than anything you can buy in store. AND it’s beautiful! I used mostly orange candied peel in this recipe.
2½ c muscatel raisins and cranberries
⅔ c candied citrus peel
1 c hazelnuts and almonds
⅓ c rum
½ cup milk, warm
2 t yeast
2 t sugar (left over from making candied citrus)
3 c 00 flour
2 large star anise ground
½ t ground cardamom
1 t cinnamon
¼ t ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons white sugar
¼ t salt
1 egg large
2 egg yolks
2 T vanilla essence
150 g very soft butter
200 g Lübecker Marzipan
8 T butter brown, melted butter (this is for both loaves)
Lots of icing sugar! (1 - 2 c)
A dusting of icing sugar
And other pretty things that take your fancy!
TO MAKE THE STÖLLEN
Soak the dried fruit, nuts and citrus in the rum overnight.
Sprinkle yeast, 2 t sugar and 1 T flour over the warm milk and leave in a warm place until really frothy. It will take about 15 mins.
Place flour, spices, sugar and salt in your mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add yeast mix, eggs, vanilla essence and butter. Beat with a wooden spoon incorporating a little flour as you go. When the dough has become shaggy but not entirely mixed tip it onto the bench
Knead for 5 minutes, adding a little more flour or a dash of extra rum as required to create a soft dough that doesn’t stick to the bench.
Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. About an hour. I like to use the upside down mixing bowl as a cover!
Very roughly chop the fruit and nuts. Some nuts can be left whole. They’ll look lovely when you slice through the Stöllen. The fruit should have fully absorbed the rum. If not strain off and have a tipple!
Press the dough out onto a lightly floured bench to about a cm thick and sprinkle with the roughly chopped dried fruit, nuts and citrus. Fold the dough like an envelope then knead lightly until all the fruit is well mixed through. You may have to add a little more flour at this point. But don’t over knead.
Weigh the dough. Divide into one 700 g lump, one 500 g lump and the leftovers are for that extra loaf.
Lightly flour the bench and roll the 500 g lump into a rectangle that is about 45 cm long. Roll the marzipan into a tube that is 45 cm long. I did this by rolling it into a rectangle that is 45 cm long then rolling it all up to create a tube.
Place the marzipan along the long edge of the dough and roll up. Now using both hands gently roll the dough log on the bench until it’s 60 cm long.
Now roll the 700 g lump of dough to 60 cm long.
Follow the images now and make a cross with the dough then ‘plait’ the two over each other to create a twisted log. Form into a wreath, squeezing the two ends firmly together, a little egg yolk can help the bind.
Lift the wreath carefully into the centre of your well-greased Ironclad Legacy Pan.
Poke any bits of fruit or nuts that are sticking out back into the dough so they don’t burn later on during cooking.
Leave covered in a warm place until it's doubled in size. This may take a little longer this time. And again the upturned mixing bowl is a great way to seal it all in.
Form a loaf out of the remaining dough and leave to rise in your well greased Lil’ Legacy Pan.
Heat the oven to 220°C then turn it down to 160°C when you pop the Stöllen into the middle of the oven.
Cook for 35 - 40 minutes until nicely browned. If you don’t have a large oven you’ll have to cook the Stöllen and the mini loaf separately.
Remove from oven and poke holes all over the top and sides of the Stöllen with a skewer. This will allow the butter to penetrate.
Brush with melted butter, making sure you get into all the cracks and crevices. Sprinkle liberally with icing sugar, again making sure it gets into all the cracks. This is what will preserve your Stöllen as it ages. The icing sugar should be about 4mm thick.
Once cooled, remove the Stöllen from the pan and wrap tightly in clingfilm and then tinfoil and store in a cool dark place for two weeks. If you're wanting to make it now and store for longer, you can also freeze the Stöllen once it has been stored at room temp for a couple of weeks. Remove from the freezer the day before you serve it.
My grandson and I loved creating this White Christmas installation together with home made gingerbread stars, candles and extra candied citrus.
To serve, dust the Stöllen with extra icing sugar, slice thickly with a serrated knife and microwave the slices for a few seconds to warm through. The microwave creates a softer, moister crumb. But you can also toast it.
And then slather it all in butter of course. Butter makes everything better!