This Dessert Will Have “Stollen” Your Heart
Christmas is a time for family, giving and of course, baking! While you’re probably already elbow deep in cookies, cakes and pastries, you’re probably missing a great Christmas bread. Luckily, stollen is the traditional German dessert you’ve been looking for to complete your holiday baking! Stollen is a fruit bread containing candied or dried fruit, nuts and spices and is often covered with powdered sugar or icing sugar.
Stollen or Christstollen is a tradition dating back to 14th century Germany. Germans baked stollen loaves during advent, a holy season of the Christian church to honor princes and church dignitaries, and to sell at fairs and festivals for holiday celebration. Some believe the Stollen was designed to symbolize baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Another legend is that the hump on the loaves represents the humps of the camels that carried gifts to the baby Jesus on the first Christmas; the candied fruits and raisins represent the precious jewels and gifts in the camel’s packs.
Advent time was also a season of fasting and according to church doctrine a stollen was to be made only from flour, yeast and water and oil. Butter and spices were banned from the bakery, so the resulting cake was tasteless and hard. In 1450, in medieval Saxony, the Prince Elector Ernst and his brother decided to petition the Pope in Rome to remedy this problem. Five popes died before Pope Innocent VIII, in 1490, sent a letter to the Prince, known as the “Butter-Letter” which granted the use of butter, but only for the Prince and his household. Others were also permitted to use butter, but on the condition of having to pay a tax. The ban on butter was fully removed when Saxony became Protestant. Over the centuries, the bread changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless “bread” to a sweeter bread with richer ingredients.
The stollen has a very rich history in the city of Dresden, where every year Stollenfest takes place. The tradition of baking Christmas Stollen in Dresden dates back to the 15th century; in 1560, the bakers of Dresden offered the rulers of Saxony stollens weighing 36 pounds each as gifts. Today, however, when the festival takes place, a stollen is baked weighing between three and four tones. A carriage takes the cake in a parade through the streets of Dresden to the Christmas market, where it is ceremoniously cut into pieces and distributed among the crowd, for a small sum which goes to charity.
Fun fact: The largest Stollen was baked in Dresden in 2010; it was 72.1 meters long!
This year, grab a taste of the Old World with a delicious, powdered Stollen!
To bake your own stollen, try out this recipe!
Find an Old World Stollen at one of these WBA member bakeries:
New Glarus Bakery
534 First Street PO Box 595
New Glarus, WI 53574
Phone: (608) 527-2916
Sunflour Artisan Bakery
231 Michigan St.
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Phone: (920) 818-0130
More Christmas dessert ideas:
First Day of Christmas: Yule Log
Second Day of Christmas: Gingerbread House
Third Day of Christmas: Classic Sugar Cookies
Fourth Day of Christmas: Peppermint Bark
Fifth Day of Christmas: Cinnamon Rolls
Sixth Day of Christmas: French Macarons
Seventh Day of Christmas: Decadent Cheesecake
Eighth Day of Christmas: Fruitcake
Ninth Day of Christmas: Caramel Apple Pie
Tenth Day of Christmas: Chocolate Truffles