When I was in my thirties, I was an avid bread baker. I bought all of the tools and became a King Arthur Flour groupie. I subscribed to their quarterly publication, The Baking Sheet. I anxiously waited for every issue to hit my mailbox. I’d highlight the recipes I wanted to try and buy the ingredients to make them. It was a wonderful way to learn to bake and to appreciate the long history of bread baking. Alongside each recipe, The Baking Sheet told the story and history of the recipe. I loved following centuries-old traditions and was swept away with nostalgia as I baked and ate my creations. Sadly, The Baking Sheet no longer exists, and I long ago tossed my collection because I got too busy to bake bread. I have tossed a lot of things in my life, and that’s my biggest regret. I’d love to go back to those butter-stained sheets and pick out some new delicacies to bake.
The Story of Stollen from Bit of Swiss Bakery
When I moved back up here, I rediscovered the Bit of Swiss Bakery. They are the pastry and bread supplier of my beloved Caffe Tosi, but they also have their own bakery tucked behind Tosi’s Restaurant. My first Christmas I stopped by to check out the showroom, and I bought a Christmas Stollen. It was delicious on its own, but I found myself awash in nostalgia once again. Centuries of bakers have toasted almonds, candied fruit and sprinkled powdered sugar on these beautiful loaves that swaddle a center of almond paste or marzipan. I am obsessed with these loaves and have purchased them in Chicago at the Christkindl Market and Bennison’s Bakery just to see who makes it best.
The dense buttery bread is itself not too sweet, but the additions of candied fruit and powdered sugar and the center of almond paste or marzipan will blow the mind of any sugar-loving soul. It will keep frozen for a very long time, and it keeps for a couple of weeks on the counter. My German friend, Claudia, said her family makes stollen more like a dense fruitcake, and it takes 3-4 weeks to age for serving on Christmas.
I have a lot more time on my hands this holiday season, so I decided to try my hand at making Stollen. Of course, I went back to my favorite bread-baking source, King Arthur, and chose one of their recipes. It seemed very similar to the one I buy at Bit of Swiss. I kept forgetting to soak the fruit, but I finally did this week and made my Stollen on Tuesday. I’m not sure if it’s because I made it, but, man, this stuff is like crack. It is delicious, and the recipe made three loaves. The almond paste in the center is addictive. I like it toasted and buttered with a nice cup of Early Grey tea, or it’s pretty good sneaked on a fork right out of the bread box.
If you’d like to try Stollen, King Arthur has several recipes, and I’m curious about this whole-grain version with raisins. If you are looking for a new holiday tradition, this could be a fun one to try.
Have you ever tried Stollen? Do you have a favorite recipe?