There are many names for Dresden Stollen, often known as German Christmas bread, including Stollen, Dresden Stollen, Strutzel, Striezel, Stutenbrot, and Christstollen. A vibrant assortment of nuts, raisins, currants, candied orange, lemon peel, and classic Christmas spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mace or cloves, brandy or rum, and tons of butte make up this traditional German Christmas cake.
Stollen is thought to have originated in Dresden, Germany in the 1400s. But at that time, the Catholic Church prohibited the consumption of butter milk during Advent as part of the fasting guidelines leading up to Christmas. As a result, the medieval Stollen was a somewhat bland pastry.
Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht petitioned the Pope in 1650 to lift the then-current "butter ban." After performing the "appropriate penance," the Holy Father finally bowed to their demands and said (in what became known as the "Bufferbrief") that milk and butter might be used to bake the stollen with a "clear conscience and with God's blessing.".
This historic decision began a time-honored tradition where Stollen-bakers delivered one or two Christmas Stollen each year with a total weight of 36 pounds to the king of Saxony for the holy celebration. Eight master bakers and eight apprentices carried it in a procession to the castle. In 1730 “August the Strong”, elector Lord of Saxony, commanded the bakery gild of Dresden to make a huge Stollen with a weight of 1.8 tons! To commemorate that event, a similar Stollen is baked every year at the annual Dresden Stollen Festival on the Saturday before the Second Advent.
Steps to Prepare:
Step 1: Soak the dried fruit in 1/2 cup of hot water. Gently warm the apple juice for a few mins in a pan, then add the yeast and leave to activate for 10-15 mins (it will start to bubble).
Step 2: Put the flour in a bowl. Stir in the yeast and apple juice mixture to form a smooth dough, then cover and leave to prove somewhere warm until roughly doubled in size, about 1-2 hrs.
Step 3: Drain the fruit and add to the dough along with the nuts, spices and marzipan. Squish everything together, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the fruit stays in the dough.
Step 4: Shape the dough into a sausage shape and put it on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to proof somewhere warm for 30 mins–1 hr. until the dough has risen by about a quarter.
Step 5: Heat oven to 350F. Bake the stollen for 20 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 300F and bake for 25-30 minutes more until golden-brown and firm to the touch.
Step 6: Remove the stollen from the oven and brush all over with the melted butter. Dust generously with the icing sugar and leave to cool completely before slicing. Store any remaining stollen, well wrapped, in an airtight container.
Best served at a table with loved ones. Enjoy!
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