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What is Stollen?

Stollen typically contains raisins or other dried fruit.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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Stollen is a type of German bread which is closely associated with the holidays, and Christmas in particular. The bread is extremely sweet and rich, and resembles a cake much more than a bread. For this reason, some people refer to it as a fruitcake or variant on a Christmas cake. However, since Stollen is risen with yeast and handled like a bread, it should be classified as a bread.

A typical Stollen has a slightly mounded shape which is meant to vaguely suggest the figure of Christ in his swaddling clothes. It is usually frosted with a light dusting of powdered sugar, and some bakers add candied or cordialed cherries to the decorations as well. Inside, the Stollen is packed with chopped nuts, raisins, and candied orange peel. Other candied fruits may be included as well, and the cake is often baked with rum for a particularly rich flavor. Some bakers also add marzipan for more flavor and moisture in the finished product.

The origins of Stollen are quite old. The bread was first baked in the German city of Dresden in the 1500s, although in a very different form. Originally, the bread was made without butter and some other ingredients which were viewed as decadent during a traditional time of holiday fasting. With a relaxing of the fasting restrictions on devout Christians, the Stollen evolved from a sometimes hard and tasteless bread to the moist, soft, very flavorful version which is popular today.

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The word is derived from the German stroczel, which originally meant “to awaken.” Over time, the term came to be used in the context of breads, probably because yeast is a living organism which awakens to create a bread dough. A different noun is used to refer to bread in Modern German, since Stollen is such a unique food. In some parts of Germany, the bread is also called Striezel, and during the holiday season it is sometimes better known as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.

In Germany, Stollen is often given as a Christmas or holiday gift. The most popular version of Stollen is Dresdner Stollen, bread baked by traditional bakeries in Dresden. Dresden also celebrates an annual Stollen festival to commemorate the bread. Traditional bakeries specially mark their breads so that consumers know that the bread is made in the Dresden style. Stollen is also baked at home, and it can be made and consumed year round, not just during the holiday season.

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Discuss this Article

anon300977
Post 4

My Oma would occasionally use the mixed candied fruit that you use in fruit cakes because it was hard to find the orange and or lemon peels separately. As I now take hold of this tradition (out of a whole family I'm now the one who sends Omas Stollen and fruit cakes to family members), I find it hard to even get candied fruit to make these recipes.

I'm proud to say, however, that I'm teaching my daughter to bake these goods. We do this every year together as I try to pass down as many traditions of my heritage as I can. Scott R. Livermore CA

amypollick
Post 3

Stollen is a great Christmas treat, and there's a grocery store in my town, Aldi, that imports stollen from Germany. It's delicious, and as complicated as it is to make, I'm glad I can buy a pretty decent version at Christmas time.

anon216945
Post 2

Hah! I thought there shouldn't be cherries. I don't remember any cherries in the stollen we got sent every year from our family in Germany. I've read somewhere else that Austrians put in cherries, and that idea seems to have spread all over everywhere else like a red, blotchy rash (sorry, being a bit purist here...) My stollen has to have orange peel in it, unless I want to get into candying my own peel, because I just can't get anything but mixed peel in the shops. Shame.

But goodness it's taken three years of experimentation to find that the only way to get a proper recipe is to look up "rezept" instead and painstakingly translate it. Virtually every recipe in English is downright weird. No spice? Cinnamon only? No butter in the dough and nearly as much fruit as flour? Oh, and my German mother messes with tradition: slow post from the old east Germany meant we often ate stollen around Valentine's Day!

anon131130
Post 1

The Dresdner Christ Stollen is only baked and consumed at Christmas. Nowhere in Germany would you find a person baking/eating Stollen at any other time of the year. This is a German tradition, and Germans around the world don't mess with tradition.

No candied, cordialed cherries or orange peel is supposed to be used ever, but candied lemon peel instead.

Marzipan is added to some commercially produced stollen.

And under no circumstances should stollen be dry - something went wrong with the recipe.

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