German Christmas stollen: a Christmas treasure chest
A scrollwork of piped frosting dances across the brown smooth oblong bread like ice patterns on a windowpane. Flattering this scene are full luxurious sugar-coated pecans their beauty heightens in a contrasting fashion. Scattered about them in a merry style are candied red and green cherries. They rest upon the drifted white frosting as if they were rubies and emeralds on jeweler’s fine showcase cotton. Time and time again while I was being raised in my parent’s home, this frosted jeweled bread made its appearance at our home. It is called Christmas stollen.
My grandfather, Walter Repnow, was an immigrant from Germany. Many times I have reflected upon the benefits of his timed arriving in America. My dad was a first-born American, and for me, the roots of my father’s heritage were only a doorstep away. In many ways, much of who I am comes from my grandfather because I respected his style. He was caring, took a true interest in a good laugh, and he loved to be engaged in life.
Christmas for my grandfather was a true time of engagement. He often talked about Christmas in Germany–the food, the music, and the colors. I do believe if he had not shared these talks with me, I would have been at risk of becoming an ordinary guy at Christmas! It was his love of Christmas Stollen that made a real connection with me. Picture this: a cozy living room, lights low, electric candles burning in the windows, the record player bringing forth Christmas carols, and my grandfather has before him a grand glass of eggnog and fresh Christmas stollen. Now this was part of his Christmas shimmer!
My mother knew how much my grandfather loved this bread, and he had described it to her many times, often when she was making bread. My grandfather was an admirer of dense bread, and my mom learned to support him with these loaves. There is a beauty that often exists between a father-in-law and his daughter-in-law. When my mother’s hands brought forth Christmas stollen, my grandpa not only thanked her but gave her a kiss on the cheek. My mother was aware of “frosted Christmas bread.” It was, however, my grandfather who introduced her to making Christmas stollen. In the pursuit to bring forth this jeweled bread, my mom called about Gladys Rust of Underwood, long-time home ec extraordinaire. She not only gave my mother the recipe but also came to our home and demonstrated how to make it! Let’s see if Martha Stewart can top that! I was lucky enough to be on board when this elevated Christmas bread-baking fantasia took place. Each year the harmony of Christmas celebrating is not in tune until Christmas stollen has appeared.
I share with you the recipe as it was written by Gladys Rust. Frostings with festive decorations have always been great mates of mine, and they put on a real show in Christmas stollen. The blending of the spices, candied fruits and the glimmer-time frosting presentation complete with pecan halves make this bread group dynamic. In checks and balance are portions of yeast, cinnamon, cardamom and mace that bring forth the sophisticated drama that stages a great memory on your taste buds. This dense, fragrant bread is delicious sliced thin and lightly toasted. Once you have done this, you will begin looking for pinecones and evergreens.
2/3 cup milk, scalded
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 packages active dry yeast
cup warm water
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, approximately
1 cup diced mixed candied fruits
cup golden raisins
cup chopped pecans
Pecan halves and candied red and green cherries for decorations
1. Pour the milk into a large bowl. Add the sugar, salt, butter, and shortening and stir until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Let this cool to lukewarm.
2. Soften the yeast in the warm water and add to the cooled mixture. Beat in the eggs, cinnamon, mace, and cardamom and enough flour to make a soft dough that can be kneaded.
3. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Knead in the fruits, (I prefer to toss them in flour first), raisins, and chopped pecans until evenly distributed.
4. Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, usually takes about 21/2 to 3 hours.
5. Punch down and roll into an oval (12×8). Fold over lengthwise so that the two edges do not quite meet. Think of creating a canal on the top of your bread.
6. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size– about 2 hours.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the stollen ten minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 minutes longer, or until the loaf sounds hallow when tapped on the bottom.
8. Brush with butter and let cool on a rack. When cool, spread with the frosting and decorate with pecan halves and candied red and green cherries.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar or more
tablespoon light corn syrup
teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the corn syrup and extract of choice. The corn syrup in this frosting makes it very spreadable allowing you to create a beautiful blanket on which to arrange your pecan halves and candies cherries. For added elegance you may want to sugar coat your pecan halves. Still wanting to improve this German Christmas symbol? Well, that is easy. Simply find an attractive serving tray complete with doily.the look will be sensational!
Repnow is a Rugby resident.
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