For many, Stollen is as much part of Christmas as the presents under the tree. Its unique combination of select ingredients include raisins, butter, sweet and bitter almonds and mixed candied peel. Along with flour, water and yeast these are the main ingredients of the traditional Christmas Stollen.

Dresdner Christstollen is a delicacy from the Saxon capital, Dresden, and as such inextricably linked to Germany’s oldest Christmas market: Dresden’s Striezelmarkt.

In Dresden, Stollen was recorded for the first time in 1474 on a bill at a Christian hospital. At the time, however, there was no thought of festive pleasures: the medieval fasting food was made only of flour, yeast and water. The authoritative Catholic church did not allow butter or milk, as a sign of abstention. However, as Saxons have always enjoyed the pleasures of life, Prince Ernst, Elector of Saxony, wrote to Pope Innocent VIII asking him to revoke the ban on butter. The Holy Father granted them their wish, sending his Butterbrief, or butter missive, to Dresden in 1491. From then on, Stollen bakers were also allowed to use richer ingredients.

Dresdner Stollen gained its reputation as being fit for kings from 1560. Dresden's Stollen bakers traditionally presented their sovereign with a festive Stollen (or two) to mark Christmas. At one ceremony the Stollen, weighing in at 36 pounds, was carried through the city to the palace by eight master bakers and eight assistants. To this day those giant Stollens are recalled at the Stollen Festival, which takes place every year in Dresden on the Saturday before the second Sunday of Advent.

Today, Dresdner Christstollen’s heritage is fiercely protected by the Stollen Association, which has been trademarked and patent-protected for decades. The basic ingredients for a Christstollen may have been established for centuries, but every baker has their own family recipe, usually handed down from one generation to another.

The ideal weight for a Stollen is two kilograms, a size which best allows the aromas to unfold. After baking and before the Stollen is cut for the first time, it should be kept for two to four weeks in its original aroma-sealed cardboard or tin box, at room temperature of less than 15C and with a relative humidity of about 70 per cent. It can then be kept for at least six weeks, usually longer.

 

As the Stollen Association keeps the recipe of the original Dresdner Christstollen a well-guarded secret, we give you three Michelin star chef and Chef of the Century Eckart Witzigmann's recipe for Christstollen: 

 

Christstollen by Eckart Witzigmann

For one large or two small Stollen of about 850g

 

Preparation time: 2 hours

Resting time: 2 nights, 2 hours 50 minutes

 

For the fruit mix

300g raisins

75g currants

50g almonds, peeled and chopped

75g candied orange peel

50g candied lemon peel

75ml rum

10 drops bitter almond oil

10 drops tonka bean aroma

1 scraped out vanilla seed

peel from 1 lemon

peel from 1 orange

 

For the dough

100ml milk at room temperature

50g honey

50g yeast

350g flour, type 550

150g flour, type 405 plus flour for working surfaces

50g raw marzipan

2 eggs, 100g

250g butter at room temperature plus butter for the sheet

10g salt

5g Stollen spice

350g liquid butter for brushing

crystal sugar

icing sugar

vanilla sugar for sprinkling

 

Method

Mix the fruits together, cover with foil and keep in a warm place overnight.

For the dough, dissolve the honey in the milk and add the yeast, then mix until smooth. Add 200g sieved flour (type 550), knead to a smooth dough, sprinkle with flour, cover with foil and leave in the fridge until the surface cracks.

Take the dough and add the rest of the type 550 flour, 100g flour (type 405), the marzipan and the eggs to make a smooth dough. Mix the remaining flour (type 405) with the soft butter, the salt and the Stollen spice and slowly add it to the dough.

Once all the butter is absorbed in the dough, let the food processor do the kneading, about 10-15 minutes, until you see bubbles. Then quickly knead in the soaked fruits. Sprinkle the dough with flour, cover with foil and leave in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and thinly brush the sheet with butter. Once the dough has risen far enough, measure how much you want and refrigerate for a further 20 minutes. Then roundly shape the dough, making sure the “seam” is on top.

You will get the typical Stollen shape by rolling it out by the wanted length but twice the width. The edges of the wide sides should bulge, a smaller and a larger bulge. Then you roll the edge with the small bulge over the other edge so that both bulges are next to each other.

Slightly squeeze the contours of the Stollen and let it rest for 10 minutes. Once placed on the sheet, put it in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 175C. The baking time depends on the weight of the Stollen; a 1kg Stollen bakes for 40-45 minutes.

After baking for 10 minutes, brush the Stollen with 100g liquid butter and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Once the Stollen finished baking, brush with a further 250g liquid butter. Mix the icing and vanilla sugar and sprinkle half of it over the Stollen. Wrap in tin foil and let rest overnight.

The next day, brush away the excess sugar and brush again with butter, but very thinly. Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar mixture and wrap in tin foil. This way the stolen will last up to three months if kept in a cool place.