Reviving Mom’s stollen recipe brings sweet rewards

How to make the holiday fixture
Sliced Christmas stollen, ready to serve.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Sliced Christmas stollen, ready to serve.

Categories: Food

I’d been in my mother’s kitchen most years when she made Christmas stollen, but I’d never tried to make it myself. It’s a cake-like yeast bread, with fruit and nuts, and though it was a holiday fixture in my house when I was growing up on Long Island, I’ve never cared for it much.

I dug out Mom’s recipe and sourced the ingredients. Citron, candied citrus peel, is hard to find. Although it only shows up this time of year, not all markets carry it, so I had to settle for something called “Fruitcake Mix,” which had pretty much the same ingredients and the same spirit. Also, I substituted raisins for their tiny, elusive cousins, currants.

One gray, damp morning I got everything ready. The butter and eggs were at room temperature, and I’d toasted and chopped the almonds.

The milk was on the stove and the yeast was bubbling. Since the kitchen was chilly, I added the butter to the milk while it was on the heat, then added the sugar and salt.

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Into the mixer bowl went the milk mixture, the yeast, the lightly beaten eggs, vanilla, almonds and citrus zest. I started with the paddle attachment; when I had something that was starting to look like dough, I switched it out for the dough hook.

As I added more and more flour to the bowl, I remembered the time before I owned a KitchenAid mixer, when I made all my dough by hand. I locked the head into place when the dough got stiffer and was grateful the mixer was doing the work.

By the time the fourth cup of flour was going in, the dough was pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It took almost five cups to produce a smooth dough that wasn’t sticky.

CAROLINE LEE/FOR THE DAILY GAZETTE
The finished stollen dough.CAROLINE LEE/FOR THE DAILY GAZETTE
The finished stollen dough.

The recipe calls for 4 1/2 to 5 cups of flour, but the amount you need may vary. Baking is precise, but you have to account for variations in humidity in the air and moisture in the flour.

The dough was still a bit warm and very fragrant from the citrus zest when I transferred it to the counter. I shaped it into a ball and placed it in a greased bowl in a warm place, and left it to rise.

It took almost two hours to double and grow into a pillowy, fragrant mass. I divided the dough, shaped the loaves, brushed them with butter and left them to rise again.

About this time, my brother Bob called. He was so pleased to hear I was making stollen.

“Put a slice in the toaster and butter it,” he told me. “I could eat the whole loaf,” he sighed.

“Remember how Mom used to mail us stollen every year?” he said. We kids were all over the country by that point and she’d made a stollen to mail to each of us. “She’d wrap it in lots of plastic and then in Christmas wrapping paper before she mailed it. And she put three bows on top,” he said. That part I’d forgotten.

When my loaves doubled, I placed them in the oven for about 30 minutes. The smell was heavenly: I could identify the citrus peel, the vanilla and almond. When they were done, I brushed them with butter, and when they were cool, sprinkled powdered sugar over.

CAROLINE LEE/FOR THE DAILY GAZETTE
Ready for the second rise.CAROLINE LEE/FOR THE DAILY GAZETTE
Ready for the second rise.

Then I wrapped one up in lots of plastic wrap and got out the old-school poinsettia wrapping paper. I put three bows on top and took it to the post office, where I sent it overnight to Bob.

“It will get there before noon tomorrow,” the nice person at the post office said. 

The next morning, as I was waiting for my stollen to toast, I got a call from Bob. He was toasting his own slice. He asked me to send a copy of Mom’s recipe so he could forward it to his kids.

Mom worried that she was the one that held our family together, and when she died after a long illness we kind of drifted apart.

How wonderful to know her recipes pull us right back together again. Not just us, but the next generation. And I would bet, the one after that.

German Stollen

Ingredients

2 pkg. active dry yeast or 2 cakes of fresh yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 cup scalded milk, warm*
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit and peel mix (citron)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
1/2 to 1/3 cup melted butter
Confectioner’s sugar

Steps

In small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In large mixing bowl, combine scalded milk, butter, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

Using the paddle attachment, stir in the yeast, the eggs and the vanilla and almond extracts. Stir in 2 cups of flour, beat well.

The dough should be starting to form. Stir in currants, citron, almonds and zest from the lemon and orange. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

If working the dough by hand, turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Grease large bowl and place dough in bowl. Grease top with melted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, less if you use fresh yeast.

Lightly pat down dough, turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide into two parts. Cover. Let rest 10 minutes.

With a rolling pin, roll each part to an approximately 12-inch-by-8-inch oval. Brush with melted butter.

Fold in half by bringing one side of dough over to within 1/2 inch from edge of other side. Press down lightly to seal. Repeat with remaining half.

Place both loaves on large floured cookie sheet or baking pan, several inches apart, and butter again. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. 

Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Brush both loaves with melted butter, and when completely cool dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Note: Candied glazed cherries cut in half may be added as well. Butternuts or filbert may be used in place of almonds.

*heat in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan.

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Makes two loaves.

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