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Christstollen (Christmas Stollen)

The traditional German Christstollen (Christmas stollen) is a wonderful bread known worldwide.


A sweet and tender bread jeweled with rum-infused candied fruits and nuts. Known internationally and much loved, the Christstollen is a traditional German Christmas bread (or cake).


Most countries have an iconic Christmas pastry (like fruitcake, or panettone), but in Germany Christstollen has to be the one. There are many version of stollen that vary with the different ingredients used, but my favourite has to be this simple loaf version.


Dolling it all up with glaze and decorations is optional, as the stollen on its own is a lovely treat. Something simpler like a dusting of confectioners' sugar is fine as well.


Christstollen takes a bit of time, as any bread does, but it is quite easy to make. It also keeps well, as wrapping it and keeping it somewhere cool gives it time for the moisture from the fruits to spread throughout the loaf. It can also be frozen after baking if you want to make several loaves for gifts or hold over until New Year's. This recipe makes two fairly large loaves, so splitting it into three is also an option.

 

Ingredients

(Makes 24 servings)

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1/2 cup candied citrus peel, finely diced (homemade if possible)

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped

  • 1/2 cup dark rum (good quality)

  • 1 cup whole milk, lukewarm

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and more for dough consistency if needed

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 1 large egg white

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil

glaze & decoration (optional):

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 cup fresh whole cranberries

 

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl, add the raisins, candied citrus peel, almonds, and dark rum. Mix well and set aside to let the fruits and nuts absorb the alcohol. This step can be done several hours before beginning the stollen.


In a separate mixing bowl, add the warm milk, yeast, and 1/8 cup of sugar. Mix well then set aside in a warm location to proof for about 10 minutes or until the surface is foamy.


Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the remaining sugar, flour, egg yokes, egg white, softened butter, pure vanilla extract, lemon zest, spices, and the yeast and milk mixture. Using a spatula, roughly combine the contents of the mixer bowl before setting the machine to knead on medium speed until the dough forms a ball. (If the dough is having difficulty pulling away from the walls of the bowl, it is too wet. If needed, add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time, letting one addition become fully incorporated before adding more, until the dough pulls together into a ball.)


Remove the bowl from the machine and take the dough out of the bowl and set it aside on a floured surface. Lightly oil the inside of the bowl, then transfer the dough back into the bowl, turning it a few times to spread a little oil the dough's surface. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and set it in a warm location to rise for about an hour or until the dough has about doubled in size.


Drain any excess liquid from the bowl of fruits and nuts. Remove the clingwrap and punch down the dough. Add the drained fruits and nuts to the dough then place the bowl back onto the stand mixer still fitted with the dough hook. Knead on medium speed until combined. (If the dough has again become too wet, add a little more flour until the dough once again pulls away from the sides of the bowl.)


Prepare two loaf pans, preferably silicone, or otherwise by lightly oil and flour the pans. set aside.


Lightly flour a worksurface then turn out the dough. Cut the dough in half and form into loaves. Place them in the loaf pans, use your hand to form a depression down the centre of the loaf, cover with clingwrap, and set in a warm place to rise a second time. After 45 minutes begin preheating the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, remove the clingwrap. Pick away any fruit that has worked its way to the top surface so that it doesn't burn. Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.


(Optional) In a medium bowl add the confectioners' sugar then whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms.


Once the stollen is cool enough to be handled, but still a little warm, remove it from the loaf pan and transfer it to a serving plate. (Optional) Drizzle the stollen with the sugar mixture and decorate the top with fresh cranberries.


Slice and enjoy. Alternately, the stollen (unglazed) can be wrapped tightly in clingwrap and tinfoil then stored in a cool location for several days to allow the alcohol from the fruits and nuts to add moisture and flavour to the bread. It can also be frozen for up to three months.