|Stollen is a traditional German Christmas cake that originates in Dresden. It is made with an enriched dough full of dried fruit and almonds that have been soaked in high-proof rum or brandy to preserve the cake while it matures. Some stollen has a sausage of marzipan baked into the middle which is supposed to symbolize the baby Jesus wrapped in His swaddling clothes. That is not the kind I grew up with, so I don’t like it, but there is no reason why you cannot do it if you like the sound of it.
Photography by Peter Cassidy
I had never been happy with the recipes I tried and so I turned to my German friend, Jules. She asked her friend Simone who kindly volunteered this excellent recipe. You can substitute butter for the lard if you must and add a sausage of marzipan if you want it, but above all please store this for at least six weeks before you eat it. Well wrapped, it will keep for three to four months.
- 2 cups all-purpose white wheat flour
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast, 1 teaspoon dry yeast, or 3/8 cake fresh yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup milk, heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons lard
- grated zest of ½ lemon
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature and cubed
- soaking the fruit and nuts
- 1 1/3 cups raisins
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- 3 tablespoons mixed candied peel
- ¼ cup rum or brandy (the highest percentage of alcohol you can find, as this is needed to preserve the stollen)
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
- 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- baking sheet, lined with non-stick parchment paper
makes 1 stollen
Day One: soaking the fruit and nuts
Put the raisins, almonds and candied peel in a bowl, cover with the alcohol and allow to soak overnight.
Day Two: making a predough and the dough
Put the flour in a bowl and make a well. Add the yeast and sugar to the well and pour in the milk. Flick some flour on the milk to close the well. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour. After 1 hour, it will be foamy and bubbling through the top of the well. If it is not, check for signs of life by simply digging through the flour on top of the well.
Sprinkle the salt around the edge of the flour, then add the lard and lemon zest to the well. Mix and then knead well for 10 minutes – see below for instructions on kneading. Now add the butter and knead again for 10 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated.
Pop it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Gently knead the soaked fruit mixture into the dough. It will look impossible but you can do it. The raisins have a habit of jumping out of the dough and onto the floor, so watch out! 
Pop it back in the bowl, cover again and allow to rest for 45 minutes.
Pull the dough out onto a floured surface.
Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and then fold it up as you would a piece of paper to go into an envelope: fold the bottom edge two-thirds of the way up the rectangle and gently lay it down, then stretch the top edge away from the dough and fold it right over the top of the dough, placing it gently down. Using a scraper, transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Cover again and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 240˚C (475˚F) Gas 9.
Pop the stollen in the preheated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 180˚C (350˚F) Gas 4. Bake for 50 minutes, covering it with foil after 45 minutes if the top is beginning to burn.
Remove the stollen from the oven. Place a sheet of foil on a wire rack. Carefully transfer the stollen from the baking sheet by picking it up – paper and all – and placing it on the foil. To glaze, brush half the melted butter over the warm stollen. Sprinkle on the vanilla sugar. Using a small strainer, dust on half the confectioners’ sugar. Spoon on the remaining melted butter (if you brush it on you will brush off all the confectioners’ sugar). 
Dust on the remaining confectioners’ sugar. 
Allow the stollen to cool completely. 
Wrap the stollen tightly in the paper and foil and store it at room temperature for at least 6 weeks before eating it. Invite friends round on a winter’s afternoon and serve it with tea or coffee for instant cheer.
General instructions for kneading
Once you have mixed all the ingredients in the bowl according to the recipe, scrape the dough directly onto a clean surface and knead it for a good 10 minutes or as stated in the recipe. Gluten is like a balloon and the first thing you do to a balloon before you blow it up is stretch it so you can blow it up more easily. Kneading is the same. It is simply stretching, and you can stretch the dough any way you like: one-handed, two-handed, in the air, with your knuckles, using a dough scraper, folding over and over – just be sure you give the dough a good stretch for at least 10 minutes.
I like to knead and I like the results it gets. There are ‘no-knead’ methods and they have plenty of merits but in this book most recipes ask you to knead. You can knead by hand or by machine. Generally, a dough hook is a better option than a paddle unless you are kneading dough with a high rye content, in which case use a paddle and stop part-way through to turn the dough over by hand in the mixing bowl.
It’s worthwhile to knead by hand the first time you do a recipe so you can feel for the texture the recipe seeks. Set a timer because it’s easy to cheat! Listen to the radio, talk to someone, dream a little and relax.
While you knead, the ingredients come together and the dough begins to transform.
You will observe that it changes from a sticky, ragged mess to a slightly sticky, silky, stretchy parcel of loveliness that you can pick up and stretch, bounce, wobble or swing like a rope. You want to be able to stretch it so thinly that you can see light through it. Please don’t be tempted to add more flour unless you are panicking. Sticky is good. Err on the side of sticky rather than on the side of dry. Once you have kneaded it, you pop it back into the mixing bowl to let it do its first rise. Unless this is called for, you don’t need to grease the bowl.