A rich and sweet bread filled with dried fruits and almond paste, traditionally served in the Netherlands during Easter.
By Ena Scheerstra
Stollen (“stol”) is an oval-shaped yeast bread sprinkled with powdered sugar or almond slices and filled with dried fruits, lemon/orange zest, nuts and a log of almond paste (“amandelspijs”) in the middle. The word stol, or stollen, comes from the Dutch word “stut”, meaning buttress. In principle the stollen is baked without form on a baking tray, but sometimes a “stut” is used for support. About 650 years ago crusaders took back unknown spices and ingredients like almonds and candied peel from their journeys.These were used together with raisins, almond paste and a fine dough to make stollen.
Traditionally stollen is eaten with Easter, and then called Paasstol. The spring and the sun that grows stronger will bring new life. Together with fertility and happiness these are celebrated with Easter, and often bread, is used as a symbol for this. For example, the notch on top of stollen is a fertility symbol and often bread shaped in form of animals (birds) is baked. Also Easter is the end of the fasting period of Catholics, celebrated with festive and luxurious foods like the stollen. Traditionally “paasstol” is eaten at the Easter breakfast or brunch.
The same bread, or almost the same bread, is eaten with Christmas as well and is then called “kerststol”. The elongated, wrapped form of the bread is sometimes seen as a symbol for swaddled childs, especially the Christmas child. Traditionally “kerststol” is eaten on Christmas morning with breakfast or brunch, and on Christmas eve after the Christmas mass. Germany has a similar bread called “Weihnachtsstollen” or “Christstollen”.
Stollen is served in slices spread with butter. People generally eat it in three ways, either eating the almond paste first, last or spreading it over the whole slice. I like it best to spread the almond paste over the complete slice of stollen and then smear it with a generous amount of good butter. In this way I can enjoy the taste of the almond paste on the whole slice, instead of having only one or two mouthfuls.
For me, stollen is essential for Easter/Christmas breakfast. It is something that has always been there and now it just belongs as the centrepiece of the table, surrounded by all sorts of other niceties. It doesn’t have to be complicated, some tea, juice and a cooked egg will already go a long way. Taking your time and sharing it with friends or family will make it special anyway. When I was younger, we always went for egg-searching and when I start my own family I will certainly add that to the tradition.
- 500 g (18 oz) flour
- 10 g (2 tsp) salt
- 50 g (2 oz) fresh yeast
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) milk, tepid
- 100 g (3,5 oz) sugar
- 100 g (3,5 oz) butter, molten
- 1 egg, whisked
- grated peel of 1 orange
- 300 g (10 oz) currants, soaked, washed and dried
- 200 g (7 oz) raisins, soaked, washed and dried
- 50 g (2 oz) candied cherries, chopped
- 75 g (2,5 oz) succade, chopped
- 200 g (7 oz) almond paste
- powdered sugar
- Make a paste of the yeast and some of the milk.
- Mix flour, salt and sugar.
- Mix milk, egg and molten butter (this mixture should be tepid).
- Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and the yeast mixture and mix with a fork or wooden spoon.
- When the fluids are roughly incorporated, knead it well by hand for 10 minutes.
- After kneading the dough will be slightly sticky, soft and smooth.
- Mix in the grated orange peel, currants, raisins, candied cherries and succade.
- Put the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise on a warm spot for 1 hour.
- After rising, knead the dough well.
- Put the dough on a lined baking sheet and flatten it to an oval of 3 cm thick.
- Shape the almond paste in a log, 1 cm shorter than the dough oval.
- Put the almond paste log on the dough and fold the sides of the dough over. Close well!
- Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
- Brush the bread with milk and put it in a preheated oven at 200C.
- Bake the stollen for about 40 minutes, cover it with aluminium foil when the fruits on the top get too dark.
- The bread is cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Leave it to cool on a rack.
- Brush with butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.