Laden with butter, dried fruit and marzipan, this festive German favourite isn’t the quickest thing you’ll bake this Christmas, but it may well be the most satisfying. Well wrapped, loaves will last for at least a week, making them a lovely gift, though it would be a shame not to keep one for yourself, too.
Prep 40 min, plus proofing time
Cook 45 min
160ml whole milk
3 tsp dried active yeast
425g strong white flour, plus 1 tbsp extra for dusting
50g caster sugar
1 level tsp fine salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg or mixed spice
2 egg yolks
150g soft butter, plus 3 tbsp extra, to glaze
100g dried fruit of your choice
25g mixed peel
2 tbsp dark rum or other spirit, apple juice or black tea
25g flaked almonds
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 Make the base of the dough
Heat the milk until warm, but not hot – if you have a kitchen thermometer, about 45C is perfect. Mix the yeast and a tablespoon of flour with just a pinch of sugar, then whisk in the warm milk and leave to sit for between 30 minutes and an hour, until the top is covered with a mass of tiny bubbles.
2 Mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet
Mix the rest of the flour with the sugar, salt and spices (I love nutmeg, but you could use cinnamon, ginger or mixed spice as you like, or even stollen spice, which tends to contain cardamom as well as some of the aforementioned) in a large bowl, then pour in the milk and yeast mixture and add the egg yolks.
3 Bring into a dough, then knead
Chop in the soft butter, then mix until the dough begins to hold its shape. Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic, and springs back quickly when you poke it with a finger – there shouldn’t be any need to flour the work surface.
4 Cover and leave to proof
Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover and set aside somewhere fairly warm for 45 minutes, followed by two hours in the fridge, until well risen (alternatively, skip the initial 45-minute rest and leave in a cool place overnight). Note that enriched doughs take longer to rise than standard ones, and rarely double in size, so don’t be tempted to rush it.
5 Prepare the fruit and nuts
Meanwhile, put the fruit (I like sultanas, currants and morello cherries or cranberries) and citrus peel, chopped if necessary, into a small bowl and cover with the booze, apple juice or tea. Leave to sit until the dough is ready, then drain, discard or drink any liquid that hasn’t been absorbed, then add the nuts.
6 Add the fruit mix to the dough, then knead again
On a clean surface, spread the dough out into a rough rectangle, scatter over half the fruit and push into the dough with your fingertips. Fold the bottom third of the dough up into the middle of the rectangle and the top third down, so the fruit is covered and enclosed, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the whole process again. Knead for a few minutes, until the fruit is evenly distributed.
7 Proof again, then add the marzipan
Put the dough back into the bowl and leave for another 30 minutes. Turn out on to a work surface and flatten into an oval shape.
Use the side of your hand to make a trench down the length of the oval, about a third of the way in. Roll the marzipan into a sausage about the same length, then lay this in the trench and fold the dough over the top, pressing down to seal.
8 Shape and proof again
For an authentic look, press the side of your hand down the length of the dough, just left of centre, to give it that characteristic stollen hump. Put on a lined baking tray, cover and leave until well risen again, which should take 30-60 minutes.
9 Bake, glaze and wrap
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6, bake the stollen for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2 and bake for a further 30-45 minutes, until golden and the internal temperature is over 90C. Once baked, melt the last three tablespoons of butter, brush all over the stollen while it’s still warm, then dust with icing sugar. Repeat the butter and icing sugar coating, leave to cool, then wrap well. Leave for at least two days before cutting your first slice. Thanks to its sugary coating, the uncut stollen should keep for up to two weeks, so long as it stays well wrapped.