In doing my research for Christmas-y breads, I came across German Christmas Stollen. I had heard the name before but really didn't know much about it so I set myself to learning it's beginnings. Also known as Christollen, this tasty holiday fruit bread is said to have originated either in 1329 in the city of Naumburg (as per German Food Guide) or around 1400 A.D. in the city of Dresden (as per What's Cooking America) depending upon the source and at that time was made without butter or milk due to the restrictions on diet during Advent. It wasn't until many years later and a petition to the Pope that this ban on butter and milk was finally lifted and the richer tasting Christmas Stollen of modern times was developed and expanded upon. The shape of the loaf traditionally represents the figure of the Christ Child in the manger and the powdered sugar His swaddling clothes or diaper. The colored fruits and nuts depict the gifts of the Magi.
Traditional German Christmas Stollen may cover several competing recipe styles each of which has it's own strict guidelines of the basic ingredients. More information regarding those styles may be found here at German Food Guide.
Although there are many types of German Christmas Stollen the recipe I have chosen today is a rather loose interpretation. I have kept it simple with dried fruits and almonds and braided it into one extra large loaf suitable for a gathering. The initial knead is accomplished in the bread machine but the balance of the recipe is completed using more traditional bread making methods. This recipe may be divided into two or more smaller loaves as desired and the fruit may be soaked in rum or brandy also prior to kneading into the dough. Any way you bake it, once you try Christmas Stollen it will be a family favorite!
What is your family's holiday baking tradition? Breads? Cakes? Cookies? If it's Christmas Stollen shout out your "must have" ingredients in the comments below.
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