I love a slice of warm toasty stollen at Christmas and so I made it my mission this year to bake my own.
And after tasting a slice of this you’ll definitely be glad you did too!
In parts of Europe, stollen appears in every household around Christmas time (I assume in other countries too!) and you can tell why. It’s essentially a fruit bread that originated in Germany many centuries ago, and is packed with dried fruits and zest and optionally filled with a roll of marzipan (why would you leave it out?) running through the middle and topped with icing sugar. Dried fruit and citrus zest/peel plays a big part in a lot of our Christmas recipes, with mince pies and Christmas pudding being the traditional centrepieces, so stollen just makes the perfect festive companion.
The Queen of traditional Christmas food is obviously Delia Smith, and so her Christmas cookbook is where I headed for my first ever stollen recipe. In the UK, Delia’s recipes are the place to go when you want to learn how to cook or bake anything, as she has a recipe for almost everything – from boiling an egg to cooking a full roast dinner and everything in between!
I actually used the recipe from her original 90s book, however she has updated it since then so I’ll link the online recipe below. The newer method is quite different at the start and a few of the ingredients have slightly different weights, so if you have both, you can pick the one you prefer. I made a couple of alterations to the original as I went along, so my recipe will be slightly different, and I’ll give a bit more detail too to help with any doubts you might have (I had a few!).
Taken from Delia Smith’s Christmas (with alterations). Updated Delia recipe can be found here.
50g caster sugar
2 level teaspoons dried yeast
350g strong white bread flour (plus extra in case of sticking)
1/4 teaspoon salt
110g softened unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
90g sultanas, raisins & currants
25g mixed candied peel, finely diced
40g no-soak dried apricots, chopped
25g dried cranberries
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
110g icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (as needed)
1. Warm the milk until you can still dip your little finger in it. Pour into a glass jug and add 1 teaspoon of sugar plus the yeast. Mix it together and leave until a layer of froth/foam forms on the top (the recipe says an inch, but mine didn’t froth up that much!)
2. While waiting, sift 300g of the flour into a bowl and mix with the salt and the rest of the sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk mixture, the beaten egg and the softened butter. Mix everything together with your hands or a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended. Then mix in the dried fruits, peel and zest. Try to distribute them as evenly as possible.
3. At this point I found my dough to be really sticky so I added the remaining 50g of flour. I still didn’t find it came away from the sides cleanly, like in other dough based recipes, but I continued as instructed! Put it on a floured board/surface and knead for 5 minutes until elastic. (The updated recipe doesn’t require it, but as my stollen turned out well, I’d rather not miss this step out!)
4. Put the dough in a warm place covered in cling film (or alternative) until it has doubled in size. I just rinsed out my mixing bowl, dried it and popped the dough back in there to prove. It took about an hour to double but Delia says it can take up to two, so just keep checking.
5. Once risen, put the dough back on a floured board/surface and knock the air out of it and knead again until smooth and elastic. Press the dough out into a rectangle of about 10 x 8 inches. Roll out the marzipan into a long sausage and place lengthwise in the centre of the dough finishing just short of the ends.
6. Fold both sides of the dough over the marzipan and flip it over so the join is on the underside of the stollen. Put the whole thing on a baking sheet with room for expansion and leave again in a warm place to double in size. This time I just placed a clean tea towel over the top to protect it.
7. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan and once the stollen has doubled, remove the tea towel and put it into the oven to bake for 35-40 minutes. I recommend checking the colour on top at 25 or 30 minutes and if you think it’s going too dark, cover lightly with some foil for the final minutes.
8. Allow it to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack.
9. While it’s cooling, mix up the icing sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Use less lemon juice for a spreadable glaze to completely cover the surface, or more lemon juice of you fancy a bit of a drizzle like I did. Traditionally, I believe people used to cover the surface in melted butter and then dust over icing sugar while still warm. The choice is very much yours! Delia says to spread the glaze over while warm, but I was a bit late in the day with my baking and did my drizzle the following morning – it still worked like a treat!
10. Slice and eat either while warm from the oven, cold, or even toasted again on the following days. NOTE: Toast the slices in the oven on baking parchment, not in a toaster, as the marzipan will soften and sometimes fall out and the icing will most definitely bubble and slide around!
However you decide to eat it, it will absolutely taste delicious. Fruity, zesty, sweet, nutty and full of festive cheer!