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Bonus Holiday Post! Yes, this is technically a Christmas bread, and yes, it is after Christmas, but it is still the Christmas season so it is still entirely legit to both post this and to make and eat it (should you be so inclined).

Or you can call it “Christmas Stollen”…and no, I did not name it this because I filched the recipe and I’m a really really stupid person (who also can’t spell) :-P. It’s a German bread, and most folks still call it by a pseudo-German name. I say “pseudo” because the full name is something like Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen, which literally translates to “Christmas Loaf” or “Christ Loaf” (give or take–my German is rusty and my dictionary AWOL, so this is a memory-only sort of translation :D). So, “stollen” is the shortened name, or what you’d call it if you made it to eat at a time other than the Christmas season (which I think does sometimes happen :-)).

Now, traditionally, stollen is made with some candied fruits and is covered in either powdered sugar or a powdered sugar glaze. For obvious reasons, this does not work for people trying to live sugar-free over the holidays! For that matter, a LOT of things don’t work for people trying to live sugar-free over the holidays, which is why my prior post gave you a type of Christmas cookie :-). More shall come at other times, for now, back to bread. I do have something to confess: I had no idea what “stollen” was when my husband began to talk wistfully of the bread his family made every Christmas Eve (I realized later that I had seen the commercialized version of it that is usually sold in Germany–a German professor brought one in–but I didn’t realize it was the same thing when Sean was talking about it). However, he quite liked the tradition his family had concerning this bread, so I thought I’d give a shot to making it.

Oh, you want the tradition? Okay :-). Generally speaking, according to the Chronicles of Sean, his family would make a stollen on Christmas Eve. This was a yeast bread with candied fruits in it, and they braided all but the very top of the loaf (the same as in the picture below). The bread then waited until Christmas morning, when a sugar glaze was applied to the braided portion, the loaf was sliced, and everybody ate some as part of Christmas morning breakfast. Well, everybody except Sean, after he discovered his sugar problem. He could only have a quick bite, but the tradition remained one that he was very fond of from his early childhood (when he could eat it) and simply as one of those Christmas smells. The loaf is braided, and the glaze applied to the braided portion, in order to represent the swaddling clothes wrapped around the infant Jesus, and the glaze is giving the “cloth color” to that part of the loaf. Some folks even use different candies or fruits to try and give the baby Jesus “head” (the unbraided–thus, unbundled–portion of the top of the loaf) a face.

So, there’s the tradition as Sean’s family celebrates it. Back to the natural sugar version of said loaf. I took a look around the internet at the many, many “traditional” stollen recipes. Of course they are all sugary, but I needed to become familiar with the iterations that already existed in order to recreate it. I found that, to my recipe sense, adding a few nuts (which apparently a lot of people do) and some spices makes the whole recipe a lot more appealing…so I did :-). I can’t say how much like a traditional German family’s recipe this turned out, because every single recipe I looked at (some with nuts, some without, some with spices, some without, some with different spices and some without those different spices…) calls itself “traditional.” My guess? Every family has their own recipe, and they’re all “the best one” :-). So, here is what my family now calls stollen, and it has been a big hit. We hope you like it!

Note on the fruits: The dried fruits should be “natural,” that is, not dried with added sugar. Yes, most brands do this, and no, I don’t know why, since most dried fruit is plenty sweet without help! So, check your packages carefully–I had to go to Whole Foods to find blueberries and cranberries that were not dried with added sugar (Craisens are very sugared up, by the way). The blueberries and cranberries I used were dried with apple juice added instead, to make them a little sweeter (and I guess the cranberries probably actually needed it), and they worked quite well in this. Of course, if you’re just avoiding additional sugar, not trying to make it go away entirely, you could use Craisens and the sugary dried fruits in this if you want. Not what I recommend, though. Oh, if you want to know, the Bare Naturals brand dried cherries are the ones I get, because they are nothing but dehydrated cherries. It’s not hard to find golden raisins and currants (or black raisins if that’s your style) without added sugar, but do check the bags, as sometimes extra white sugar still gets added to them.


Ingredients for the Bread:

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 TBS golden raisins
  • 2 TBS currants (or normal raisins, if you can’t get currants)
  • 2 TBS dried blueberries
  • 2 TBS dried cranberries (chopped a little if they’re whole dried cranberries, since those tend to be bigish)
  • 3-4 TBS brandy (or apple juice, if you prefer, but the brandy is really nice in this)
  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2-4 TBS Baking Stevia (2 TBS is minimally sweet, and some folks like this bread sweeter, more like its candied-fruit version)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp molasses
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 – 1 TBS fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 – 1 TBS fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients for the Baking Glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 TBS milk

Ingredients for the Final Glaze/Frosting:

  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 1/2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp Truvia
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


1. Combine dried cherries, raisins, currants, blueberries, and cranberries in a small bowl. Pour the brandy (or apple juice) over them and set it all aside to soak a little.

2. Warm the milk, molasses, butter, and salt in a small saucepan and stir. Once it is combined, remove the mixture from the heat. The milk should be very warm when you stick your finger in, but not hot. Let it cool until this is true, if necessary (otherwise, you’ll kill the yeast. If you’re a thermometer person, the milk mixture should be between 103 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take, to make yeast happy. Not above 115, though, please). Add the yeast and let the mixture proof (this means wait until you get bubbly or frothyness on the milk from the yeast–it proves your yeast are alive and happy and will be able to make the dough rise). Proofing can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes depending on temperatures and how easily the yeast can break down the kinds of sugars provided (by you :D) in their environment.

3. Once the yeast has proofed, beat in the egg and the orange and lemon zests. Mix well.

4. In a separate and large bowl, combine the flour, baking stevia, and spice. Mix well. Add the yeast mixture, fruit mixture, and almonds. Mix all of this well. You should get a very soft bread dough. This can be done in a stand mixer, using either the paddle or dough hook attachments, or by hand with a wooden spoon.

5. Turn this dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your surface or hands. You should have a soft but workable dough when you are finished kneading. Knead for at least a couple of minutes.

6. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into a buttered mixing bowl and let it sit and rise until it is about doubled (anywhere from 1-2 hrs depending on how warm your house is. Mine is usually about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and it usually takes about 1.5 hrs <shrug>. It can take longer, though, so just watch for it).

7. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it just a few times. Shape the dough into an oblong about 9-12 inches long and four or so inches across (measurement approximate). Create three long, but equally wide and thick, strands of dough, still joined at the top, by cutting the dough starting about 3 inches down from the top of your oblong. Braid these strands (braiding technique: lay the leftmost strand across the center strand. Lay the rightmost strand over the point where the first two strands overlap. Repeat. Okay, yes, that is a terrible description, but I can’t do better in the abstract–find a site that tells you how to braid, if you don’t know how, because this is the same kind of simple braid you’d do with hair, except with dough :-)). Pinch the ends together at the bottom firmly and tuck them under a bit so that they won’t pull apart during further rising and baking. Set this braided oblong onto a baking stone (or buttered normal cookie sheet) and cover with a light towel. Let rise until nearly double (more like an hour, this time).

8. When loaf is pretty much risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make the egg glaze by beating the egg yolk with the TBS of milk. Brush this glaze onto the top and sides of the loaf (it will help the loaf get a nice hard golden crust, which is pretty and will support the frosting better than a softer crust). Bake the glazed loaf for 20-30 minutes, or until it is golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped with a fingernail. When done, remove from baking sheet immediately (but carefully!) and put the loaf on a wire rack to cool.

9. When the loaf is completely cool you may either wrap it up in saran wrap to keep for the next day (or day after next, if you’re baking early!), or apply the glaze immediately. Note: This bread is actually better when it sits for a day or so–the flavors seem to blend together more. I know, it’s a rare bread that isn’t best hot, or at least on the same day as baking, but this one really isn’t. So, even if you aren’t making it for Christmas morning, I’d suggest making it a day or so early.

10. To make the final glaze/frosting: Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. Beat the flour into the butter until smooth (I use a whisk). Add the agave nectar, vanilla, and Truvia and beat well. Apply to the loaf immediately–this will solidify and be unpourable (but tasty :-)), as soon as you remove it from the heat, pretty much. I just pour it down the center of the braided portion of the loaf strait from the pan, and then go back and forth over the loaf until I’m out of glaze. Let the glaze cool for just a minute, then you’re ready to slice and serve the stollen! Any uneaten portion can be wrapped back up in saran wrap or kept in an airtight container. It will dry out, like any bread, so you should eat it up pretty quickly :-).

Now, I know that some purists out there are saying “but the glaze should be white!” This is probably because that’s traditional (since some folks just put powdered sugar on, after all), and it supposedly makes the braiding seem a little more like baby blankets (the modern term for “swaddling clothes” :D). Now, you can fuss if you like, but a tasty white natural sugar glaze? Not so easy to do (and heck, I should just admit that I find most powdered sugar glazes gritty and boring–they’re just sweet, and nothing more). You could try a powdered milk based frosting recipe (I have one if you want it), but the flavor of this glaze compliments the stollen so incredibly well that I don’t really recommend going with something else :-P. Also, white fabric was massively expensive back in the day, and Mary and Joseph were poor…I think that this gold-brown is closer to a fabric color they might have actually had to wrap baby Jesus in :-). After all, it is pretty close to the color of unbleached flax or cotton or even cactus fiber. Any way you slice it (or glaze it!) this is one tasty Christmas treat! Enjoy!