It’s a rare for me to find one holiday recipe that I make over and over every year. I’m not against tradition, it’s just that there are so many candies, cakes, and cookies topping my favorites list that if I made each one, I’d have enough to last us right up until the next holiday season.
So I have to pick and choose.
That has started to change a little bit, though, as we’ve traveled abroad over Christmas and I’ve discovered traditional foods of other countries. It began with Danish Butter Cookies after visiting Copenhagen. I’ve made them a whopping two years in a row and I don’t see them dropping off the list anytime soon.
Since we’ve visited Austria and Germany at Christmas I’ve found a few favorites from there as well. Actually, my love of stollen started way back when I worked in a bakery and we used to make a modified version at the holidays. I’ve been searching for a good recipe ever since, but I end up running out of time to give it a try before the holiday hits.
This love of German baked goods is why I was thrilled to get a copy of Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss. With the book in hand, my excitement continued to build at the turn of every page. There are so many of the favorites we’ve had in Germany in this book and so many more I have yet to discover.
But then I was hit with the eye-opening reality that these aren’t all quick and easy creations. No, the truly traditional treats of the region can take weeks, sometimes months, to prepare. Doughs need to rest and ingredients need to soak. It’s fascinating for a food culture lover like me, but it also means that I need much more time to plan ahead to accomplish my goal of recreating these foods.
That brings me back to the stollen. In the book, the author says she had a difficult time finding a successful stollen recipe, and that a true stollen should rest for 2 weeks after it’s baked before being eaten. As a good substitute she provides a recipe for Christbrot, Sweet Christmas Bread.
Sold! I was ready to try it.
Try it I did and I was not disappointed. Dare I say, it was better than some stollens I’ve had. The dough was perfectly tender and sweet. I had some candied orange peel that I’d made a few days before so I used that and golden raisins for the fruit.
Full disclosure, and likely obvious from the images, I definitely need more practice at making it. But that is why this is a good recipe to make every holiday season from here on out. It’s a bit of work to knead all that fruit into the bread. Mine needs some work on even distribution so that each slice is more consistent. With some more practice, though, it will get there.
We finished off one loaf and I froze the other. I think it will be a welcomed breakfast here in a few weeks.
I know the holiday season has officially ended, but if you love that time of year as much as I do, I know little things like a bread recipe to try next year can easily catch your attention. Until then, I’ll be celebrating my German heritage by making more things from this cookbook. There are plenty of recipes to get me through to the next holiday season.
Sweet Christmas Bread
Reprinted with permission from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
3⁄4 cup/110g raisins
2⁄3 cup/100g chopped candied orange peel
2⁄3 cup/100g chopped candied citron peel
1⁄4 cup/60ml dark rum
4 3⁄4 cups, scooped and leveled/600g all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1⁄4 ounces/35g fresh yeast, or 1 1⁄2 teaspoons instant yeast
1⁄2 cup/120ml whole milk, lukewarm
8 1⁄2 tablespoons/120g unsalted high-fat, European-style butter, melted and slightly cooled
1⁄3 cup/70g granulated sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of 1 organic lemon
3⁄4 cup/110g blanched whole almonds (see note below), chopped
1⁄2 vanilla bean
1⁄2 cup/100g granulated sugar
9 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/130g unsalted butter, melted
13 tablespoons to 1⁄4 cups/100 to 150g confectioners’ sugar
To make the dough: Two days before baking, place the raisins and candied citrus peels in a bowl and add the rum. Cover and set aside, stirring occasionally.
The day you plan to bake, finish making the dough: If using fresh yeast, place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Crumble in the fresh yeast. Pour one-third of the milk over the yeast, stirring carefully with a fork to dissolve the yeast and mix in a little bit of the surrounding flour. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and set aside for 5 minutes in a warm, draft-free spot. (If using instant yeast, stir the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and grated lemon peel together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter, and eggs. Make a well in the flour and pour the milk mixture into the well, stirring as you go. Knead briefly by hand in the bowl until a shaggy dough forms, then proceed to the kneading phase in Step 3.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and grated lemon peel. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the flour and stir together until shaggy. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until smooth, 5 to 7 minutes. Add flour only if absolutely necessary. Form the dough into a ball and place back in the large bowl. Cover with a clean dishcloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes.
Gently pull the dough onto your work surface and pat out until about 1 inch/2.5cm thick. Distribute the chopped almonds and rum-soaked fruit (including any dregs of rum that may still be in the bowl) over the dough, and then gather the sides up around the fruit and almonds. Knead together until the fruit and nuts are well distributed throughout the dough. Form the dough into a ball, place back in the bowl, and cover with the dishcloth. Set aside for another 30 minutes.
Note on Nuts: German, Austrian, and Swiss baking rely heavily on nuts—usually almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts—that are either ground, chopped, sliced, or blanched. Buy your nuts in bulk at a store with heavy turnover so that you can be guaranteed freshness, not rancidity.
To blanch whole almonds, place them in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes, and then drain off the water. The almond skin will be quite loose and can be either pushed or scraped off.
Happy New Year!
My book manuscript is due at the end of January – yikes! As you would expect, so much of my creative energy is going towards that project, that I’m finding it a little difficult to brainstorm and develop new recipes for you here. This month you will still find some great recipes on the blog, but many will be from some of my favorite cookbooks as I catch up on book reviews. I know you’ll enjoy them as much as I do!
I’ll be back with more of my own creations in February!