Monday, November 22, 2010

Weihnachtsstollen

It's a tradition.  Thanksgiving week I bake Weihnachtsstollen.  Yesterday was the day.

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!

Then there are two long "rises" in the bowl.  My dough never appears to rise much.  I always worry about it.  But I think it needs a rest as much as a rise, so I stick with the recipe.

By mid-afternoon the dough is ready to be formed into loaves.  Then the loaves have a rise.  Finally, just about the time I'm making my supper, the loaves go into the oven for an hour or so.  And that sweet, yeasty smell finds its way into every nook and cranny of the house. 

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!

I want to have my stollen as the centerpiece of my Eggnog party table.  So I wrapped it tightly, and now it's sitting.  Waiting.

And so am I.

5 comments:

The Japanese Redneck said...

Takes lots of willpower to not cut into that beautiful loaf!

Shandy said...

Yum! Looks delish, Johanna. Does your stollen have almond paste?

Johanna said...

No, no almond paste. I never had one made with -- maybe it's a regional thing? Lots of walnuts, however!

Manhattan Harvey said...

Man, I could smell it in New York City.

mom said...

All these years, I didn't know you could make stollen!!!! That'll be in my autobiography...the Lost Years.
It looks great!!