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Well, hello December! And we all know what that means: Christmas is coming! We’re pretty excited about it in this house. That’s one of the fantastic things about having children; Christmas becomes magical and exciting again. The kids are pumped and so are we. One of the things I like most about Christmas is all those little family traditions that get carried year after year. And now, with children of our own, we get to add our own little traditions to the age-old family ones.

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Amongst those new traditions, the batches of Christmas Stollens I now make every year. If you’ve never heard of them (you’re missing out!), Stollens are traditional German Christmas cakes and can be mostly found in the German  shops like Aldi & Lidl. Now, trust me when I say this, Stollens are awesome. I’ve been addicted to them for a very long time now so I couldn’t be happier when, three years ago, I found a recipe for it. I couldn’t believe it; I could now make my favourite Christmas cake, how awesome was that!

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So there you have it, I tweaked the recipe a little to make it easier and this is now my fourth year making this cake. I’m always eager for December to come around so I can start baking. I’ll be honest, this is not something you can whip up at the last minute. Christmas Stollens are a labour of love, they take time (they have to rise 3 times, so make sure you start early) and there are quite a few elements to them so you’ll be at it most of the morning. In saying that though, they are very much worth it. Also, one batch makes 3 loaves and the cooked loaves can be frozen so there’ll be plenty to go around. Ok, enough talking now, here’s the recipe.

Christmas Stollen

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast (2x 7g sachets)
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • ½ dried cranberries
  • 2 cups mixed dried fruit
  • 1,5 cups flaked almonds
  • 1 cup (225g) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Grated zest of one orange
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Marzipan filling*:

  • 250g butter, room temperature
  • 250g sugar
  • 250g almond meal
  • 4 eggs

In a large bowl, combine the warm milk and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved. Stir if necessary. Whisk in 1 cup of the flour and let it sit in a warm place until doubled in size and spongy.

In the meantime, make the marzipan filling. Cream the butter with electric beaters, then add the sugar. Mix until well combined. Add eggs, and beat well. Add the almond meal little by little, beating well between each addition. Store in the fridge (it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3-4 days).

Now back to the Stollen. Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the salt and vanilla extract.

Add the cranberries, mixed dried fruit, flaked almonds, the sponge (the milk/yeast/flour mix) and 6 cups of flour. Stir and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if it’s too sticky (I knead by hand, but if you have an effective dough hook on your stand mixer, it should do the job).

Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel or gladwrap and let it rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.

When ready, knock the dough down and knead it again for a minute. Divide it into 3 equal portions. To shape your loaves, pat each into a rough oval, place a layer of the filling in the middle, then fold into thirds. Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper and place the loaves on them, one loaf per sheet.  Let them rise again until almost doubled in bulk. As they rise, preheat oven to 200 degrees C (350F).

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Bake the loaves for 30-40 minutes, until they are golden brown. Leave them to cool and dust with icing sugar. Eat to your heart’s content!

Bon appétit! If you try this recipe, please let me know how you go. I do warn you though, it’s highly addictive!

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*One batch of Stollen will use only half of that filling. The rest can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 weeks (and used for another batch of Stollen, hehe).

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