Do you dream of a tender, moist, deliciously citrus stollen with a magic gingery marzipan centre? This is for you. It’s the sourdough version but not sour and fairly low-sugar, lovely with a lightly crisp crust and tender crumb bursting with flavour. The zingy dried cranberries with candied orange and lemon complement the subtle heat of the ground ginger marzipan. Stollens are a typical German festive sweet bread, quite cake-like and eaten during the Christmas season. Having made this one several times, I can vouch the dough is forgiving and it always rises well, so it’s a process but relaxing to make. And my friends can attest to it’s total deliciousness. Some slices went hiking (got up 5am to bake stollen before setting off, lol). We couldn’t stop eating it – absolutely divine. If you feel shop-bought stollen is a bit dry or sweet, get hold of some sourdough starter and make this very rewarding, moist and delicious cranberry, citrus and ginger sourdough stollen. A great Christmas treat…
… but wonderful any time of the year. Slices freeze well, so you can nab a slice from the freezer during later winter months.
A little history
Sorry, no time for lots of info here but check out this Stollen wikipedia entry to see how amazing stollens are, dating as far back as the 15th century and with their very own Stollenfest in Dresden.
Mind you, early versions of this bread were apparently pretty tasteless, as bakers weren’t allowed to use butter during the advent fasting season. Many popes were petitioned to change this law until finally in 1490, Pope Innocent VIII allowed the prince and his family access to butter. Times were hard then – especially for the peasants who had to wait until the 16th century for their access to the golden stuff, when the seasonal ban on butter ended under Protestantism.
And here’s a fun fact: the longest Stollen (72.1 metres long) was baked in 2010 by Lidl, the supermarket chain (the Guinness World Records link is here). I do wonder who ate it. Anyway, back to the recipe… ! 😉
THE RECIPE – makes 2 small-medium stollens about 17cm long and 11-12 cm wide (or 1 large); 16 to 20 slices in total
My stollens are adapted from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s in his book, How to Make Sourdough. He understandably won awards with his recipe and has given Christmas sourdough courses in the UK, where you can make his stollen and some other stuff (I’ve been on another of his courses and his sessions are lovely: hands on and productive but very nice and relaxed). Anyway, for these stollens I’ve just added a little more citrus, replaced some cranberries with candied orange and lemon, plus soaked them in rum and brandy the previous night. You can leave out the alcohol, as in Emmanuel’s stollen. My shaping, proofing process and timings are also a little different.
- Previous day – soak dried fruit and refresh starter (10 mins)
- Day 1 – refresh starter (early, 5 mins); make pre-ferment (afternoon, 5 mins); prepare marzipan (5 mins); mix and bulk fermentation (evening, 30 minutes work spread over 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours); overnight rise (7-8 hours)
- Day 2 – bake (35 to 55 mins) and finish with butter/icing sugar (5 mins); eat
- Late evening, refresh sourdough starter as per usual (100% hydration).
- Soak dried and candied fruit in alcohol (optional)
You need a total of 100g/3.5oz (2/3 cup) dried fruit, chopped to small cubes or pieces plus the candied ginger. This is the mix I used (adaptable – you can use sultanas instead of cranberries, etc.).
- 50g/1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 25g/1/6 cup chopped candied orange peel
- 25g/1/6 cup chopped candied lemon peel
- 40g/1 and 3/4 tbsp chopped crystalized/candied ginger
- Total 50g/ml brandy and/or rum (I used 10g dark rum + 40g Cointreau)
You can omit the alcohol or replace it with the same quantity of freshly-squeezed orange juice (but soak the dried fruit in it just 4 hours on Day 2).
Step 1. Refresh starter again early morning – after 6-10 hours, at around 4-5pm, it’ll be active and ready (bubbly and more or less doubled in size).
Step 2. 4-5pm: make pre-ferment.
Pre-ferment in large bowl
- 40g/ml warm milk (30-37ºC/ 86-99°F)
- 40g/3 tbsp active sourdough starter
- 40g/1/3 cup less 1/2 tsp strong white bread flour
Whisk warm milk and starter in large bowl to combine. Use rubber spatula to stir in strong bread flour and get a smooth paste. Cover and wait 4-5 hours (at around 23ºC/73°F) until active and bubbly.
Step 3. prepare marzipan
- 200g/7oz almond marzipan (preferably good-quality)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- optional: a few drops to 1/4 tsp almond extract if marzipan needs more flavour
Knead marzipan thoroughly in a bowl with the ground ginger, until the ginger is incorporated evenly. If needed, add almond extract, to taste, and knead again to incorporate. Keep marzipan moist in a plastic re-usable wallet/bag at room temperature until use.
Note: for Step 5 on Day 2 (baking) you’ll also need: 90g/2/5 cup unsalted butter (I used French-style good-quality); vanilla sugar (shop-bought or store your sugar with a dry used vanilla pod in a jar) and icing/confectioners’ sugar.
Step 4. 8-10pm: mix and bulk fermentation
- 100g/7 tbsp good-quality unsalted butter (French-style), softened at room temperature
- 40g/1/5 cup demerara (or light brown) sugar
- 5g/1 tsp fine sea salt
- finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 (half) lemon
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 56g beaten egg (1 medium-large free-range egg), at room temperature
Warmed in saucepan
- 70g/ml full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
Added to large bowl of pre-ferment
- 260g/2 cups strong white bread flour
Mix and turns
Preparation – warm milk to tepid (around 27ºC/80°F)
- In medium bowl whisk softened butter until creamy and add in sugar, salt, lemon zest, cardamom and vanilla extract, creaming until smooth. Whisk in beaten egg gradually until smooth and fluffy.
- Add 1-2 tbsp of the flour if mixture starts curdling/separating.
- Whisk until smooth again.
- In the large bowl of pre-ferment, add warm milk.
- Whisk to combine starter and milk.
- Add the egg and butter mixture and flour.
- Stir to get a sticky dough that’s still a bit lumpy.
- Knead a little to incorporate all the flour. Cover bowl with plastic shower cap or damp tea towel. Let stand about 10 minutes.
- Knead again, squashing any lumps to get a smoother sticky loose ball of dough.
- Do 1st turn: gently pull and stretch up one side of dough (about 1/4 or 1/5 of ball).
- Fold into middle and press down lightly.
- Turn bowl 90º (1/4 way around) and repeat. Do this 8 more times so you have a total 10 folds (and have stretched all the way around the ball of dough about twice). Turn dough over, cover bowl again and rest 10 minutes. Then do 2nd turn: repeat Steps 10 to 12.
- 3rd turn: add drained (or dry) dried/candied fruit. Repeat Steps 10 to 12.
- 4th turn: repeat Steps 10 to 12. Fruit should be evenly spread in dough.
Cover bowl with plastic shower cap/film or damp tea towel and allow to rise in warm place (23-27ºC/73-80°F) about 1 hour.
Shaping part 1
1 hour later … lightly sprinkle flour on a smooth work surface. Divide dough equally into two pieces. Shape to make two balls then flatten them slightly.
- Pull up one side of dough.
- Lift over to opposite side. Turn 90º and repeat (do this a total of 5 or 6 times).
- Use fingers underneath to tuck in sides and rotate to form a ball. Rest 10 minutes.
Note: basically, in steps 2 and 3 you’re stretching lengthwise 5-6 times then using fingers under the ball, going around to make a tenser domed ball, creating tension as in the bagel illustrated recipe below (steps 1 to 6 only).
While dough’s resting 10 minutes, shape marzipan into two sausages, each about 10cm/4 in long.
Shaping part 2
Optional: shape balls of dough again (see steps 1-3 above), if you’d like more structure to them. Rest 10 mins again.
You can see the dough is smoother now. Turn balls of dough upside down on baking paper (or lightly-floured work surface), so the dome faces down. Roll out to ovals about 13.5cm/5.3in wide and 17cm/6.7in long (and 2cm/3/4in thick).
- Place a roll of marzipan across the middle of each oval. Bring sides of dough over the marzipan to tuck it in.
- Bring top of oval down to middle, to cover marzipan roll.
- Bring bottom of oval up to middle.
- Pinch seam together with your fingers.
- Place on clean baking paper with seam underneath.
- Use side of hand to press down on and flatten left side.
- Repeat on right side, to get typical stollen dome in middle.
- Transfer on baking paper to airtight container (or re-usable plastic bag) to proof (rise) 7-8 hours overnight at room temperature (around 23ºC/73ºF or a bit cooler).
DAY 2 – next morning (quite early)
The stollens should have puffed up and almost doubled in size. Do the finger poking test – if you gently poke with your finger and dough springs back quickly, it’s not ready yet. If you poke and it leaves an indent that slowly starts filling in, they’re ready. If the indent stays in then get your stollens into the oven asap (it’ll be alright).
When almost ready, preheat oven to 220°C/425°F (fan oven) or 240ºC/460ºF (static oven)
- Prepare 1 cup hot water
- Place large deep baking tray on bottom of oven.
- Carefully place stollens (on their pieces of baking paper) on a large baking tray in middle of oven. Immediately pour 1 cup hot water into deep baking tray on bottom (to create steam).
- Quickly close oven door. Immediately lower oven temperature to 180°C/355°F (fan oven) or 200ºC/390ºF (static oven). Bake 10 minutes.
- After the 10 mins, lower heat to 160°C/320°F (fan oven) or 180ºC/355ºF (static oven) and bake a further 25 to 45 minutes. To check they’re ready, tap on the bottom underneath – they should sound hollow (like knocking on a door). If they don’t, place in oven 10 minutes more then check again.
- Once baked, place on wire rack to cool a little. Carefully use sharp knife to take off any fruit that burnt on top and sides.
- While stollens are cooling, melt 90g/2/5 cup butter. Brush bottom of stollen three times then turn over and brush top three times. Wait a little until butter is absorbed between brushes. Repeat until all butter is used up.
- When final butter layer has set, roll stollens in enough vanilla sugar to coat them.
- Then sieve icing sugar over the stollens – it can be quite a thick layer. The butter and sugars help keep the stollens softer and fresher longer.
Okay, that’s it. I know it’s a bit of a saga (detailed instructions always gives that impression), but it’s totally worth it. They are truly delicious and will fill everyone with Christmas joy. Yay! Almost started singing an Xmas carol there.
Eating and Storing
Eat immediately or on the same day, when I feel my stollen is at its freshest and best (apologies to all the Germans who are exclaiming in horror). You can store in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic film, for several months apparently. Traditionally it should age 1 to 3 weeks before eating, but I found mine was pretty dry after a few days. You can also store slices in reusable plastic wallets in the freezer for up to several months.
Yum yum, do have a slice or two of this delightful cranberry, citrus and ginger sourdough stollen. I’ve made them the last 3 Christmasses and I suspect there will be more! Hope you’ll make one too.
Thanks for dropping by and I’ll just wish you a great run-up to Christmas now, with some extra-yummy festive food. Happy baking and eating! 🙂 Lili x
P.S. Hoping to post a simple Xmas chocolate log cake recipe soon, if you’re interested.