Monday, November 22, 2010
I met my first Weihnachtsstollen in 1979 when I was doing a semester abroad in Germany. I lived with an elderly woman who had survived the firebombing of Dresden in the second World War, then escaped with her husband and the clothes on their backs just ahead of the Iron Curtain. Grossmutti, as I called her, baked her stollen (which is also known as Dresden Stollen) in late November or early December, then placed the well-wrapped loaves "im Kammer" (which meant in the unheated vestibule closet) for a few weeks.
The big reveal came the last Advent Sunday before Christmas, when at coffee time she'd bring out strong German coffee and slices of this delicious, yeasty, eggy bread full of dried fruit and nuts. Resting for those weeks allowed the fruitiness to permeate the sweet bread. It's fragrant and rich and delicious. Did I say delicious?
Baking Weihnachtsstollen is an all day affair. Simply mixing all of the ingredients together until smooth takes a good long time, even in a mixer. And it kind of wrecks your kitchen!
Now you're thinking "start the coffee, the stollen's coming out of the oven!" aren't you. But remember Grossmutti's practice -- a couple of weeks at least tightly wrapped and stored away. It's hard, so hard, not to taste a slice right out of the oven, but look at how beautiful it is!
And so am I.