Christstollen, the Christ Loaf, is the oldest German Christmas pastry – made to resemble the Christchild in his swaddling cloths. Unfortunately there are not too many people in the US who know about it. Lebkuchen has become the standard sweet that people think of when they think of Germany and Christmas. So I wanted to introduce some more people to this wonderful traditional bread.
Are you READY? First you may want to ask yourself: Do I really have time for this project, in the midst of the Christmas insanity, in the middle of writing & mailing out cards, buying & wrapping gifts, taking your kids to Christmas concerts and Nutcracker performances? Are you sure about this?
Well, if your answer is “Yes”, you should start shopping for these items now! Might take you a while to scout for the ingredients:
For >>the<< recipe you need:
- 1 kg flour
- 450 g butter
- 1/2 liter warm milk
- 200 g sugar
- 100 g of fresh yeast (ca. 5 tsp of dry yeast)
- 10 g salt
- spices: 1 tsp each of ginger powder, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
- zest of one lemon
- 100 ml rum (whenever I am not looking my husband adds more to the bowl…)
- 500 g raisins
- 150 g corinths (small kind of raisins, I found them at Sprouts)
- 200 g almond flour
- 150 g candied lemon peel
- 150 g candied orange peel
- logs of marzipan, if you are feeling rich buy 2-3 (You know they keep that stuff hidden in the baking section at the grocery store, I swear. Usually I find it behind a display of some sort on the bottom of the shelves…Make sure you squeeze the package to ensure its freshness. If the paste inside the cardboard and wrapper are rock hard and won’t give, don’t purchase! Grab the next package and repeat till you find one that is squeezable. Sorry, but I came home many a time with old marzipan. I guess not too many people buy that stuff)
- 100 g butter
- powdered sugar
- Vanilla sugar ( impossible to find in this nation – find a long lost relative in Germany and have them mail it to you!)
Step 1 Put raisins, corinths, chopped candied citrus fruit peel, almond flour, rum, lemon zest in a bowl and soak over night or for a longer time in the refrigerator. Monitor husband and rumbottle closely!
Step 2 Make the pre-dough. put flour in a bowl and make a little well. In the well put a few tablespoons of lukewarm milk mixed with the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir taking small amounts of the flour from the side of your well. Cover with a dusting of flour, put a towel over the bowl, and let it rest in a warm non-drafty place ( are you kiddin’ me? there is no non-drafty place when you live in an old house ) for 45 minutes. During that time you can work on those last Christmas cards for the uncle and aunt in Germany you forgot…
Step 3 Go back to your dough and see if any rising action took place. If not, write more cards or wrap another gift. Maybe you could mail that last package to a customer. By now the lines at the post office might be too long.But you got time! If the dough has risen, once you return from your errand, add the rest of the warm milk, spices, butter, sugar, and mix all of in with the flour. You know the real German Hausfrau has big arms from doing this. It’s hard labor to move these mountains of stuff and kneed them together. Luckily I own a kitchen aid. My scrawny arms could never manage this. So hopefully you have one of those miracle tools, too! Once everything is nicely mixed together into a sticky ball of dough, let it sit and rise for another hour. During that time you could run out and buy another gift for your husband. If he is deserving…
Step 4 Hopefully you have removed the soaking fruits from the refrigerator – so the warm yeasty dough doesn’t suffer too much of a shock from the cold fruit mixture! Your bowl is probably too full already. But you can take out batches of the dough and kneed in the fruit mixture by hand. I like to do it that way because you get a feel for how sticky the dough is. Maybe you want to add some more flour…
Step 5 Make loaves. Split the dough into parts, depending on how many loaves you want to make. I usually make one larger loaf and two small ones. But you can do whatever you want. Roll out the first batch of dough flat. Take the marzipan log out of its package, sprinkle some powdered sugar on your workspace and roll out the marzipan as flat as you can. Move the marzipan over on top of your rolled out yeasty dough pieces and roll the two layers together. Sort of like making a jelly roll. Shape the roll into a nice loaf and place onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Start working on the next loaf. You can bake more than one loaf on a cookie sheet! Put towel over the finished loaves and set them in warm place to rise again! Is it Christmas yet? =)
Step 6 I promise you are almost there…Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit while the loaves are rising once again. Bake them until they are cooked all the way through. Now this is the tricky part. In case you thought the rest was hard… Maybe it’s living at high altitude that messes me up each year. Sometime I end up with loaves that are way too dry. Other times they are still sticky despite the fact that I stuck in a knitting needle and tested them. It’s really kind of hit or miss. I have baked them for 35 -45 minutes. But I am hoping some day mine will turn out as perfect as my mother’s. Sigh!
Step 7 It’s the last one I promise, honestly! As soon as the loaves come out of the oven brush the hot loaves with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla and powdered sugar. Does it look like baby Jesus in his swaddling cloths? Good job! Once they have cooled down wrap the precious loaves tightly, put a bow on them, and give them to a person who has been good to you all year. Or feed them to the family right then! They are probably tired of waiting around for you since you spent most of the day in the kitchen…
If you would like to know more about the history of this traditional German bread please read this blog post from my personal blog here.