Cooking with Jola Episode 8: Christmas Stollen and other treats

I mentioned Stollen in last week’s installment of Cooking with Jola.  This is a traditional Christmas treat that is a cross between raisin bread and fruit cake. The baking process is a bit time intensive, but the taste and the tradition are worth it.  Plus stollen is a treat that lasts a long time and actually tastes best when it’s at least 8 days old.

Jola’s recipe makes a large stollen. She notes the date and ingredients of every completed stollen in a small book she has. Sometimes she uses Hazelnuts (Haselnuss). Sometimes she uses Almonds (Mandeln).  In any event she always uses raisins soaked in rum and candied lime and orange peel. Generally she cuts them in half when they are complete, wraps them and gives them as gifts. I think Jola is kind of famous for her stollen.  This year she made 16! The other day we were invited to have coffee with a dear friend of Jola’s so we took half a stollen with us. The friend had made stollen too, so of course, we had a taste test.  The friend ate Jola’s version and we at the friend’s version. I have to give the friend credit, hers tasted almost identical to Jola’s. Even Jola said it was really good (not just to the friend but later when we were alone in the car.)

The recipe is intensive as I mentioned, so while I included it at the bottom of this post, I want to spend the majority of the post talking about other German Christmas treats and traditions.

The main Christmas treat aside from Stollen is plätzchen.  Pronounced Pletzien, when it is directly translated it means cookie. We have our traditional Christmas and holiday cookies in the States and here the same thing goes with Weihnacht’s plätzchen. It almost seems like a symbol of christmas and good taste to make this variety of cookies.  People seem to take pride in being able to offer these cookies, at the same time it seems like kind of a responsibility, as if you would not want anyone to stop by your home during the holidays and not be able to offer them plätzchen. Here is a photo of Jola’s friends delicious plätzchen and a beautiful plateful from another friend’s home:

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When a friend of mine invited me to a get together, I decided I should try my hand at plätzchen,  I asked Jola for the recipes and asked Thorsten which ones he thought I should make.  He chose Vanill Kipferl (kind of like an sugary almond moon.) A friend had mentioned that these were time intensive.  I should have believed her.  In the end they turned out, but they took hours!  Here they are:

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A few weeks ago we visited Coburg, north of Forchheim.  As mentioned previously, every city seems to have their own take on Bratwurst and other specialties.  I thought the Coburg bratwurst looked a little inappropriate.  Here is a picture of it, you can see what you think.  In more appropriate news, they are also famous for their chocolate covered apple slices.

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Between last year and this year, we’ve visited a number of Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt). I’ll do a post on this cool holiday tradition later this week!

Jola’s Stollen Recipe

Yield: one large stollen.

Ingredients (these are in metric because that’s how they are stated in Jola’s recipe)

I Kilo Flour

175 grams sugar

1 package of Vanilla Sugar

2/5 packages of fresh (not dried) active yeast

juice of one lemon

1/4 Liter Milk

500 grams butter

1 egg

400 grams of raisins (soaked in Rum)

50 grams candied orange peel

50 grams candied lime or lemon peel

pinch of salt

200 grams of finely ground almonds

100 grams of small chopped almonds

box of powdered sugar

The dough starts off in a large bowl (make sure it’s a bowl with a top) and looks a little like the dough we used for Zweschen Kuchen. Pour in flour, creating a whole in the middle.  Add powdered sugar and sugar all around the outside edge of the bowl. Add the yeast to the whole in the middle, crumbling it up.  Then mix the lemon juice with the yeast.  Cover the bowl and put it in a warm spot for about an hour.

When you open the bowl after an hour it should look like this:

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In the meantime, melt the butter and milk together on the stove over very low heat. Using a mixer with the kneading function, add the rest of the ingredients one at a time (do not add powdered sugar, this is for later) and knead for a long time. Imagine the old days when you were doing this with your hands and continue to knead it for longer than you think. You’re activating the yeast and really getting things mixed around.  Next, cover it again. This time for 2 or 2.5 hours.  When it’s finished with the second rise, it should almost be bursting through the top.

After the second rise use your hands to form it into a loaf shape. Preheat the over to 200 degree Celsius or then if you have an induction oven, take it down to 160 celsius.  If not 200 is fine for 1 hour. Should be golden when it comes out.

Let it cool and then load it up with powdered sugar:

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When it’s ready it should look like this:

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Jola says it’s best when it’s around 8 days old. So you can keep it in aluminum foil in a cool room and wait to powder it until you are ready to give it as a gift.

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