Stollen is a yeasted German bread with nuts, dried fruits, spices, marzipan, and powdered sugar typically eaten around Christmas. In this version, we replace the raisins with dried apples and cranberries and fill the center with hazelnut marzipan. This bread has all of the best holiday flavors and goes so well with a cup of hot coffee!
The first time I met Marc’s German side of the family was in Idaho Falls where we combed through old pictures of Trier, looked at his grandma’s old Hummels and Räuchermanners, and I ate a ton of stollen because did you know there are huge chunks of marzipan in the middle?! I may have eaten three or four slices and left his family’s house covered in powdered sugar. It was fine, I’m fine. It was worth it and now I have a major love for stollen!
On the other hand, even though Marc is half German, he’d never tried stollen because of his almond allergy. So, I decided to make an alternative version with homemade hazelnut marzipan, dried cranberries and apples, and a splash of bourbon. The result is a bread that is soft, flaky, and basically tastes like Christmas. Also, if you’re feeling a little intimidated by the idea of making stollen, don’t even worry about it. It’s a little time-consuming but actually super simple! Let’s get into it.
What is stollen?
Stollen, a.k.a Christollen, is a yeasted German bread that is typically eaten around Christmas time. There are many versions of stollen, but the most well-known version in the U.S. has marzipan in the middle (marzipanstollen). The bread is filled with dried fruit, nuts, marzipan, warm spices, and topped with a thick dusting of powdered sugar. It’s basically the German form of fruitcake, but much better because it’s super buttery and has a hint of booze.
The texture is bready, flaky, soft, rich, and dense thanks to the dried fruits and nuts. Also, because the add-ins are macerated with liquor (typically dark rum), the bread will last for up to 2-3 weeks. It’s a great make-ahead option for the holidays and is also a lovely gift for friends, family, and neighbors!
A few details
Traditional stollen has raisins, dried currants, blanched almonds, and a log of almond marzipan. It also usually has candied citrus peel. As much as I love a project recipe, I wanted to make this version go just a bit quicker. So, instead of making homemade candied citrus peel, I just added a bit of lemon and orange zest.
Also, because I’m not a huge fan of raisins, I like to use dried cranberries and apples which perfectly compliment the warm spices and hazelnut marzipan. But, you can use whatever dried fruits you’re into! I also tend to use less dried fruit than most recipes call for. I like the bready texture of using less fruit, plus it’s easier to mix. However, you can add more dried fruit if you like.
Lastly, if you want to stick with classic almond marzipan, it’ll still taste just as delicious. But I’d highly recommend trying out the hazelnut version because it makes the marzipan taste extra buttery and just a bit earthy.
The ingredient list
To make stollen, you will need:
- Hazelnut flour – either storebought or homemade.
- Powdered sugar – for the topping and marzipan.
- Dried fruit – I like cranberries and apples but anything will work.
- Nuts – preferably hazelnuts but almonds will work too.
- Liquor – usually, I go with bourbon but dark rum and brandy are also great.
- Yeast – active dry yeast is my go-to.
- Unsalted butter – both for the dough and topping.
- Spices – cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg or mace.
- Citrus – the zest of a lemon and an orange.
- Baking basics – vanilla, eggs, whole milk, sugar, flour, and Kosher salt.
How to make stollen
Although there are a few steps to making classic stollen, it’s actually super easy and doesn’t even take as long as you’d think! Most of the time is waiting for the dough to rise. However, you will need to set aside a few hours from start to finish. Because of the rising time, I would definitely recommend making this on a weekend or when you have an afternoon to turn on some music, sip on some wine, and bake for a bit. Now, let’s break down step-by-step how to make stollen with homemade marzipan!
Whip up the hazelnut marzipan
- First, combine the hazelnut flour and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor.
- Add vanilla extract and an egg white and pulse a few times until a thick dough forms.
- Turn the dough onto a cutting board dusted with a bit of hazelnut flour. Knead until there are no dry spots.
- Roll the marzipan into four 7 to 8-inch logs and wrap tightly with wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Macerate the fruit
- Mix the dried fruit and nuts together in a small, shallow bowl. I like using a pasta bowl!
- Next, pour the liquor over the fruit-nut mixture. Stir to combine.
- Lastly, let the mixture sit while you make the dough, or up to 12 hours. Stir occasionally.
Mix up the dough
- Start by activating the yeast with the warmed milk and a bit of sugar. Let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, flour, egg, egg yolk, butter, vanilla, zest, spices, and Kosher salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir with a dough hook until you have a thick, wet dough.
- Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes until it’s smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the kneaded dough with a linen and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Next, punch down the dough and add the fruit-nut mixture until evenly distributed. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a round ball.
- Roll each dough ball into a 1-inch thick oval approximately the same length as your marzipan logs.
Shape the dough
- To shape the dough, place a marzipan log in the middle of one of the dough ovals. Fold the left side of the dough over until it covers the marzipan log.
- Next, fold the right side of the dough over the top of the left side (like a brochure) just until it reaches the left side of the marzipan log. Don’t fold it all the way over to the edge.
- Seal the side and ends of the dough by pinching them closed.
- Use the side of the palm of your hand to press down along the left side of the marzipan log, creating a divot. This will give the stollen the classic “bump” down the middle.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and marzipan so you have 2 loaves.
Bake & finish
- Place each loaf on parchment-lined sheet pans. Cover with a linen and place in a warm spot until puffy, about 1 hour.
- Pick off any fruit sticking out of the loaves. Bake them at 350°F until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
- Let the stollen sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Then, poke holes all over the top of the stollen with a skewer or toothpick. Immediately brush melted butter over the tops until it soaks in.
- Finish by dusting the stollen generously with powdered sugar. Let cool and dust with more powdered sugar. Slice and enjoy!
A make ahead option
If you want to split up the steps, there are lots of ways to spread out this recipe! The marzipan can be made up to a week in advance. Also, you can start to macerate the fruit up to 12 hours in advance.
To start the dough early, make it up until the first rise. Instead of placing the dough in a warm spot, just cover it well with plastic or beeswax wrap and place it in the fridge to slow-rise overnight, no more than 12 hours. When you’re ready to continue, take the dough out and let it warm on the counter for 20-30 minutes, until it is fully doubled in size. Then, continue with the remaining steps according to the directions.
I actually really like the slow-rise method because it allows the dough to ferment a bit in the fridge and develop more flavor. However, it’s just as good if you make it all in one go!
Storing & freezing
If you want to serve the bread right away, you can slice the loaves as needed and store the leftovers by wrapping the loaves in tinfoil and placing them in an airtight container. It will last on the counter at room temperature for 4-5 days before it dries out.
However, the best part of stollen is that it actually gets better with age! If you wrap the loaves (un-cut) super well and store them in a cool, dark spot, it’ll last up to 2-3 weeks. Over time, the liquor will seep into the bread making it super flavorful and moist.
To store it properly, leave the loaves whole and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Then, wrap them well with aluminum foil. Place the loaves in an airtight container and keep them in a dark, cool place (like a pantry) for about 2 and even up to 3 weeks. When you’re ready to eat the bread, just slice it and you’re good to go!
If you need the bread to last longer than 2-3 weeks, you can always freeze it. I would recommend freezing it before you add the topping. Just wrap it very well with aluminum foil and place the loaves in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to serve, let the loaves thaw at room temperature. Gently reheat the loaves in a low oven (170°F or so) for 10-15 minutes. Poke the top with a skewer, brush with butter, and top with powdered sugar.
I’m a huge fan of the cranberry-apple-hazelnut combo but you can switch things up to make this stollen your own! Here are a few ideas:
- Hazelnut marzipan – try regular almond, pecan, or pistachio flour instead of hazelnut. You can also just go with store-bought almond marzipan if you want to skip a step.
- Dried fruit – raisins, dried currants, apricots, cherries, dates, and even blueberries would also be delicious. As long as you have 1 1/2-2 cups of dried fruit total, you’re good to go!
- Zest – for a more traditional move, use candied lemon and/or orange peel instead of zest.
- Spices – I personally love a combo of cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg but mace, cloves, allspice, or any warm spice will work.
- Liquor – dark rum is the most common, but I usually go with bourbon. Brandy is also delicious!
Recipe tips & tricks
- Warm the milk between 100-110°F so the yeast activates properly.
- This recipe makes 2 large loaves but you can make 4 smaller ones if you’d like. (Just quarter the dough and marzipan logs instead of halving). Start checking the loaves for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.
- To help the dough rise properly, set your oven to the lowest setting (mine is 170°F). Then, start boiling some water on the stove. Place an oven-safe baking dish on the bottom rack of your oven. After letting it warm for a few minutes, turn off the oven. Place the covered dough in the oven on the top rack, and then pour the boiling water in the baking dish on the bottom rack. Close the oven door and let the dough double in size about 1 hour. The heat + steam from the boiling water will mimick a proofing box!
- To prevent the bottom of the loaves from burning, bake them on a sheet pan doubled up with another sheet pan. Many home baking pans are too thin and will cause the bottoms of the loaves to burn.
- The bread is fully baked when it sounds hollow when you give it a “knock”.
- Brush the loaves immediately with butter while they’re warm so that they soak up all the butter.
- Use a sharp bread knife to slice the bread so it doesn’t get squished when you’re cutting it. Only slice off what you need to keep the slices from drying out!
More holiday bread recipes
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Stollen with Hazelnut Marzipan
- 1 1/2 c hazelnut flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white
- 3/4 c dried cranberries*
- 3/4 c dried apples, chopped
- 1/2 c hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 c bourbon, dark rum, or brandy
- 1 c whole milk, warmed to 110°F
- 1 Tbs active dry yeast
- 1/3 c sugar, divided
- 4 c all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, very softened and cut into chunks
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
- 1 1/2 tsp orange zest (about 1 orange)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 7 oz hazelnut marzipan** (recipe above)
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
- 2 c powdered sugar, plus more as needed
Make the hazelnut marzipan
- In a food processor, combine the hazelnut flour and powdered sugar. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the vanilla and egg white and pulse until a thick dough forms.***
- Turn the dough onto a cutting board dusted with hazelnut flour and knead until there are no dry spots. Roll the marzipan into four 7-8'' logs and wrap tightly with beeswax or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to a week. Alternatively, you can freeze the marzipan for up to 3 months.
Macerate the fruit
- In a medium bowl, combine the cranberries, apples, and hazelnuts. Pour the bourbon over the fruit-nut mixture and stir to combine. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, while you make the dough or for up to 12 hours.
Mix up the dough
- In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the warmed milk, yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar. Let it sit until it’s foamy, 5-10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining sugar, flour, egg, egg yolk, butter, vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon, cardamom, mace, and salt. Add the activated yeast, and use a dough hook to stir until you have a wet dough.
- Knead the dough for 7-8 minutes until it is smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It might be a little tacky but shouldn’t leave residue on your hands. Remove the dough, spray the bowl with a little neutral cooking spray, and add the dough back to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a linen and place it in a warm spot until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Once doubled, punch down the dough to release the air. Pour off any excess bourbon from the fruit-nut mixture, and add it to the dough. Use a dough hook to mix the fruit and nuts into the dough until well-combined. If the fruit-nut mixture makes the dough too wet, add flour 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough is tacky but doesn't leave a residue on your hands.
- Tip the dough onto a floured surface and cut into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Roll each dough ball into a 1-inch thick oval, a little longer than the length of your marzipan logs.
- Place a marzipan log gently into the middle of one of the dough ovals. Fold the left side of the dough over until it covers the marzipan, and then fold the right side over the top of the left side (like a brochure) just until it reaches the left side of your marzipan log. (Do not fold the right side of the dough all the way over the edge of the left side of the loaf). Seal the side of the loaf where the edge of the dough meets the left side of the marzipan log. Pinch the ends so no marzipan is showing. Then, using the side of your palm, press your hand along the left side of the marzipan log to create a divot in the loaf. This will give the stollen the classic "bump". (See pictures above). Repeat with the remaining dough and marzipan.
- Place the stollen loaves on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with linens and let them rise in a warm spot until puffy, about 1 more hour.
Bake & finish
- While the loaves rise, preheat your oven to 350°F. Once risen, pick off any pieces of fruit sticking out (they’ll burn in the oven). Bake the stollen for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.***** The stollen are done when they sound hollow when you give them a "knock".
- Let the stollen sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Then, use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the bread. Next, brush the butter evenly over the tops of the loaves, allowing them to soak in the butter. Dust the loaves generously with powdered sugar. Let them cool completely and then dust them with powdered sugar once more. Slice and serve with hot coffee or store for later! Each loaf serves about 16 slices.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love