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Sourdough Stollen (Christmas Bread)

Sourdough Stollen: A Christmas Tradition | NourishingJoy.com

I love tradition. Especially around holidays.

(Considering I’ve already shared about our family’s Swedish and Dutch traditions around the holidays, I suppose it doesn’t surprise you that I love a tradition from our German roots as well….)

Yes, one such tradition I love at Christmas is waking to fresh-baked stollen on Christmas morning.

Granted, the rest of my family are the ones doing the waking up to fresh-baked bread, as I am inevitably the one who has risen early to pop the loaf in the oven before tucking back in under the warm blankets to eek out a few more moments of sleep.

(Word to the wise, however, set a VERY LOUD alarm – I’ve burned my sourdough stollen and sourdough hot cross buns more than once by such indulgence.)

Sleep-deprived capers asides, stollen is a decadent celebration of the smells and tastes of the season. Studded with fruit and almond paste, it’s a sweet yeast bread that just sings of all things merry.

Now, I should mention that while my family tradition is to eat fresh stollen straight out of the oven on Christmas morning, the more proper German tradition is to make this 4-6 weeks ahead of Christmas and let it age to perfection, then dust it with powdered sugar just before serving. Plus, then you don’t have to make this on Christmas Eve so it’s fresh on Christmas morning. Brilliant.

Want to know how to age stollen? Wrap your cool loaves in rum-soaked cheesecloth, surround with foil or cling wrap (stay tuned for our homemade cling wrap tutorial in January, which is PERFECT for this application), then place in plastic bags and set aside in a cool, dark closet until Christmas morning. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and slather with apricot jam, if desired.

 

Sourdough Stollen: A Christmas Tradition | NourishingJoy.com

 

Sourdough Stollen
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Ingredients
  1. 300 g (~1 1/4 cup) sourdough starter, domed
  2. 600 g (~4 cups) all-purpose flour, unbleached and unbromated
  3. 1 cup whole milk
  4. 1/2 cup honey
  5. 1 egg
  6. 2 1/2 cups dried fruit (raisins, currants, chopped apricots, dried cherries, dried figs, candied citrus peel, etc) - this doesn't have to be exact, so measuring by volume is fine!
  7. 1/4 cup orange liqueur, rum, or orange juice
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  10. zest of 2 large oranges
  11. zest of 1 large lemon
  12. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  13. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  14. 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  15. 1 pinch black pepper
  16. 120 g (1/2 cup / 1 stick) butter, slightly softened, cut into 8-10 pieces
  17. 1 cup almond paste (see how to make almond paste)
  18. Powdered sugar (see how to make powdered sugar)
Instructions
  1. Place the sourdough starter and flour in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk and honey and stir to mix until the dough is shaggy.
  2. Then, one at a time, add the egg, dried fruit, orange liqueur, vanilla, salt, zests, and spices. Knead until the dough comes together in a coherent ball, then cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. Working on low speed or kneading by hand, add the butter one piece at a time, working the dough after each addition until the piece is nearly fully incorporated. Once all the butter is added, continue kneading until the dough is soft, smooth, and very stretchy, 10-15 minutes. The final dough should be very soft, but not at all sticky.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour, roll the dough out into a vertical rectangle about 18 x 12 inches. Take the almond paste and form it into a 3-inch wide strip that's almost as long as your rectangle, then lay it lengthwise down the middle of the dough. Fold the two long sides of the rectangle over the almond paste, then make the top and bottom ends tidy by pulling the ends up and over the ends of the almond paste and tucking them under the side flaps. (See the picture below for help if you need it.)
  6. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray, cover, and let sit for 1 hour or place in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F and prepare a steam bath by placing an empty baking pan in the oven during the preheat. When the oven is fully heated, place the stollen in the oven and pour 1 cup of water into the preheated pan and close the door as quickly as possible. (Be careful not to get a steam burn in the process.) Bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bread. Internal temperature should read 190-200F when it's finished.
  8. Let the stollen cool, then either wrap for storage or serve immediately.
  9. When ready to serve, sprinkle very liberally with powdered sugar, slice, and eat. We love to slather ours with butter and occasionally apricot jam.
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How to Fold Your Sourdough Stollen

Here you can see the two sides folded up over the almond paste in the center. (The almond paste is about the same color as the dough, but you can see it sticking out at both the bottom and the top…. see?)

After you fold the sides over the almond paste, just pull up the dough at the top and bottom and tuck them under the folded-in sides. It doesn’t look like there will be enough dough, but this dough is very elastic, so just pull gently and it will wrap and tuck beautifully.

Sourdough Stollen: A Christmas Tradition | NourishingJoy.com

I should mention, however, that even though this folding method is the way *I* was taught to make it “traditional,” there are others who cling just as steadfastly to either braiding their stollen or folding it into a crescent.

Each method has its madness: the folding as I’ve described above evokes the image of the Baby Jesus being swaddled, while the crescent fold certainly has the image of the Baby being cradled, and the braid calls to mind the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Any and all of them are exactly what we want on our minds on Christmas morning…. 😉

Here’s a holiday hug from me to each of you! No matter whether this year has been filled with great joy for you or whether it has been one of deep sorrows, I pray this season is a blessed one for you. Merry Christmas!

 

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Sourdough Stollen: A Christmas Tradition | NourishingJoy.com

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This post may contain affiliate links, including those from Amazon.com, which means we earn a small commission off your purchases. And here's the thing: We only mention services and products that we think are truly worth your attention, whether they're free, paid, or otherwise. This site relies on YOUR trust, so if we don't stand behind a product 110%, it's not mentioned. Period.

Comments

  1. Tina says

    Hi! This looks very fun to make. Am wondering if freezing, then mailing as Christmas gifts would be feasible. Thanks!!!

    • Kresha Faber says

      I can’t imagine why not. I’ve never done it, so I’m not sure of how you’d need to wrap it or whatever, but it’s a sturdy bread that ages well, so I would think it would be a great candidate for a mailable edible Christmas gift. 🙂

      Have fun!

  2. Rianne says

    Don’t use a pyrex baking dish for your steam bath, though… When I added the water, hot water to be sure, to the dry dish, as per the recipe, the dish literally exploded. After cleaning every last shard and speck of glass from the oven, I tried again with a metal baking dish, filled with water from the start. Stollen came out beautifully…

  3. leona says

    be interested to know what kinda temp you have at home for the first prove to be an hour! sat my mixing bowl in a sink full of hot water for 6 hours before it even vaguely doubled! no rush though, i love sourdough for many reasons but its slowness is one of my favourite things.

    • Kresha Faber says

      Well, “room temperature” is more or less defined as being about 68-70 F, but length of your rise time will mostly be determined by the “oomph” of the sourdough. But I agree – it can vary widely, even from batch to batch if different sourdough is used, and sometimes its slowness does add an extra layer of scrumptious flavor. 🙂

      Enjoy!

  4. Craig says

    I make a lot of naturally leavened breads but I’ve always had trouble with getting a decent leavening from enriched breads like stollen. I got excellent flavour results with your recipe but the primary rise took about 30 hours to complete, while the proofing stage took about four hours. The wait was worth it, however, as the resulting bread had a nice crumb and complex mildly sweet sour flavour. If I make this again I might try making a pre-ferment dough with only starter, water, some flour, and salt. I would incorporate the rest of the flour and all other ingredients after I had a good rise in the pre-ferment dough

    • Kresha Faber says

      That’s a great idea!

      I’m glad it turned out well for you in the end. This has always been one of our family’s favorite breads. 🙂

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