German Stollen is a rich, buttery bread packed with almonds, citrus peel, and rum-soaked raisins and dried fruit and typically enjoyed around Christmas time. The bread can be made weeks ahead of time and just gets better with each passing day. This makes it perfect to give as gifts or to bring as hostess gifts for parties.
For the fruit and nuts:
- 1/3 cup dark raisins
- 1/3 golden raisins
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/2 cup diced candied orange peel, or apricots cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries, cherries or other tart dried fruit cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 cup whole almonds, with or without skins
- 1/2 cup dark rum or brandy
- 1/4 cup orange juice
For the dough:
- 5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups warm milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons oil, to coat the bowl
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- About 1 cup powdered sugar (for serving)
1 Soak the fruit: In a medium bowl, combine all the dried fruit, rum, and orange juice together. Let soak overnight. (The almonds don’t get soaked.) Or microwave the mixture, uncovered, for 2 minutes, or until the fruit is warm. Cover with a plate and let soak for at least 1 hour.
2 Make the sponge: To make the dough, we first start by making a sponge. To make a sponge, add 2 cups of flour and the yeast to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Set the mixer to stir or low just until the yeast and flour are combined.
Add the warm milk and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat the mixture for one minute. This is your sponge.
Detach the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for one hour.
(If using active dry yeast, place the warm milk in the bowl first, stir in the yeast, and let it stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour.)
3 While the sponge rises, mix together the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups flour, salt, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg.
4 Finish making the dough: Once the sponge has risen, return the bowl with the sponge to the base of the stand mixer and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.
Set the mixer to medium speed, add the lemon zest to the sponge and mix to combine. Add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until each is incorporated and the dough looks like thick batter. Add the egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Beat in the sugar.
Switch the mixer to low speed and gradually add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and spice mixture to the bowl (reserve the remaining 1/2 cup). Once the dough becomes stiff and shaggy, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook attachment.
Knead the dough on low speed for 4 to 6 minutes, then add the remaining flour and spice mixture 2 tablespoons at a time until incorporated. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead with the dough hook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes. When it’s ready, the dough should be soft and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
5 Let the dough rise: In a large bowl, add the vegetable oil. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning it a few times so it is coated all over with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled. If you have a cold kitchen this might take as much as an hour longer.
6 Add the fruit and nuts: Drain the fruit. Use one hand to steady the bowl and knead in the fruit and almonds with the other. When most of the fruit has been incorporated, scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for a minute or two or until all the fruit and nuts are well incorporated. Let rest for 10 minutes to relax the dough before shaping.
7 Prepare the baking sheets: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
8 Shape the loaves: On the work surface, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
Pat one piece of dough into an 8-inch round. Fold one-third of the dough towards the middle and fold the other flap over it, leaving a gap of about one inch between the top flap and the edge of the dough so there is a ridge. Cup your hands on the outside of the dough to taper the ends and form the dough into an oval. In the end the dough should look like an oval with a ridge on top.
The loaves may not look picture perfect at this point, but they will bake into decent shapes and all will be forgiven with the final dusting of powdered sugar.
Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and place them 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (2 loaves per sheet).
9 Let the loaves rise: Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
10 Bake the loaves: About 20 minutes before the loaves finish their final rise, heat the oven to 350ºF.
Place the loaves in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, then swap the top and bottom sheets and rotate each pan 180° and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the loaves are nicely browned. (Total baking time is 40 to 45 minutes).
If the loaves seem to be browning too quickly, cover them loosely with a piece of foil. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the loaf. It should register 190°F.
Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack or racks then set the racks on top of the baking sheets or parchment.
11 Make the topping and finish the bread: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, ginger, and nutmeg.
While still warm, brush the tops and sides of the loaves with the melted butter until all of the butter is used. Sprinkle with the spiced sugar. Let cool completely.
12 To store and serve: When thoroughly cool, wrap the loaves in plastic wrap and then in foil. Store in a cool, dry place (not refrigerator) for at least 3 days before cutting and for up to 2 weeks. (You could keep them in a bread box.)
Before serving, dust generously with powdered sugar shaken through a strainer. Serve with butter, honey, or jam, if you like.