The traditional English Christmas, really, is a mix of German traditions and Charles Dickens: most of the ‘traditional’ decorations associated with Christmas were made fashionable by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who must have brought them along as his dowry. When a London journal published a picture of the royal family gathered around a Christmas tree in 1848, everybody wanted a tree. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, on the other hand, turned Christmas into the ideological affair it has been since: a time of giving and sharing, of looking out for each other and of spending time together as a family. One might argue that the focus has shifted a little from giving to getting stuff, though …
After the Christmas tree and elaborate decorations, Stollen is probably the most famous German Christmas export. Originating from East Germany, the first mentioning of a Stollen dates as far back as to the 13th Century! Over time, the city of Dresden has become so closely associated with the sweet bread that the name ‘Dresdner Stollen’ is now protected by European Law: only Stollen made in the City of Dresden can call itself ‘Dresdner Stollen.’ Needless to say, these recipes are so well guarded that you’d have to marry into one of the local families to get a peek.
Generally speaking, Stollen is a sweet yeast dough, filled with raisins, candied peel and almonds. Some contain marzipan, which is probably the most popular here in England, others quark. You can get Stollen all year round, but during the Advent period and around Christmas, if is called a ‘Christstollen.’ Another thing that doesn’t change throughout the year is the way Stollen is traditionally folded: its shape and the white colour are vaguely resembling a swaddled baby – Baby Jesus, to be precise.
In the spirit of Christmas I shared my recipe with Frau Dietz, my English blogging friend who posts so expertly and entertainingly about life and food in Germany on her blog A Sausage has Two. If you’re ever planning on visiting the Frankfurt area, or Germany in general, do have a look at her site as she has been writing extensively about the country and its food. I love her seasonal eating guide, especially those mouth-watering pictures of German markets … So, if you’d like to give Stollen a try this Christmas, have a look a my recipe on A Sausage has Two.
Stollen need to be big, and the recipe will leave you with two large loaves, which are perfect for sharing. Frau Dietz gets her Christstollen from her mother-in-law: it is wrapped up tightly in tinfoil and clingfilm and ready to be taken over to England, where her own family is already awaiting it eagerly. You can’t get more Dickensian than that, at least not in a good way!