Mrs. Kostyra’s Christmas Stollen is a lovely soft yeast Christmas bread to enjoy on Christmas morning. Filled with dried fruits and with a lovely powdered sugar glaze, it's a family favorite!It's Martha Stewart's beloved mother's recipe and we enjoy it every year.
Originally posted December 3, 2012 and updated December 11, 2023.
A Christmas Stollen, also known as Christstollen in Germany, is a soft yeast bread that is baked and made with dried fruits. It is typically dusted with powdered sugar, however, this recipe is coated with a sweet glaze.
I’ve been dreaming of making this Christmas stollen since I saw it in Martha Stewart Living magazine in 2009. It’s Martha’s mother’s recipe and it looked like it was a good one.
- Mrs. Kostyra's Christmas Stollen
- Why do we eat stollen at Christmas?
- What is Stollen?
- Why this recipe works?
- Ingredients for this traditonal German Christmas Stollen
- Is stollen the same as fruitcake?
- How to make stollen?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Some other holiday breads to enjoy:
- Traditional German Christmas Stollen Recipe
Mrs. Kostyra's Christmas Stollen
What stopped me from making it year after year? Was it the mace? Was it the braids? I’m thinking it simply had to do with my not taking the time to see what mace is and how it could be substituted. It also was because I didn't want to try to tackle making pretty braids.
This year I had no qualms about braiding the loaves and I also had no issues with completely omitting the elusive mace. I still have not come across it any of my spice shopping ventures.
Why do we eat stollen at Christmas?
The simple answer is because it tastes good. But the more complicated answer has to do with history and tradition.
What is Stollen?
Stollen is a traditional German fruitcake that dates back to the 14th century. It was originally made with just flour, water and salt, but over time, bakers began adding in other ingredients like fruit, nuts and spices.
The cake became especially popular during the Christmas season, and it was often given as a gift to friends and family. Today, stollen is still a popular holiday treat in Germany, and it can be found in bakeries all over the world.
Why this recipe works?
- This recipe is a perfect harmony of flavors: The various dried fruits and nuts add a blast of fruity zest and contrasting textures, while the subtle hints of mace, nutmeg, and lemon zest lend it a unique aromatic profile.
- The use of Cognac (or orange juice for a non-alcoholic version) to soak the raisins and currants not only keeps them moist but also infuses a deep, rich flavor into the dough.
- The braided design not only makes the stollen visually appealing but also ensures even baking, with every part of the dough receiving optimal heat.
- The slow, two-step leavening process allows the dough to develop a light, fluffy texture, ensuring the stollen is not overly dense despite the addition of numerous ingredients.
- The glaze made from confectioners’ sugar and milk adds a delightful sweet finish, complementing the complex flavors within the stollen and enhancing its overall taste.
Ingredients for this traditonal German Christmas Stollen
- All-purpose flour: The backbone of most baking recipes, providing structure and texture.
- Granulated sugar: Adds sweetness and helps in browning and tenderizing.
- Salt: Enhances the flavors in baked goods.
- Ground mace or cinnamon: Gives a sweet, warm flavor.
- Freshly grated nutmeg: Offers a sweet, nutty and slightly spicy flavor.
- Whole milk or unsweetened almond milk: Adds moisture and aids in browning.
- Unsalted butter or vegan butter sticks: Provides fat for tenderizing and flavor.
- Active dry yeast: Acting as a leavening agent, it helps the dough rise.
- Large eggs: Adds structure, leavening, and flavor.
- Golden raisins: Sweet, chewy fruits that add moisture and sweetness.
- Dried currants: Tiny, intensely flavored fruits.
- Cognac or orange juice: Used to soak the currants, adding flavor and moisture.
- Blanched almonds: Offers a crunchy texture and nutty flavor.
- Diced candied citron or orange peel: Adds a unique, sweet-tart flavor.
- Diced dried apricots: Delivers a sweet and slightly tart flavor.
- Lemon zest: The outer rind of a lemon, adding a bright citrus flavor.
- Vegetable oil: Used to grease the bowl for dough rising.
- Confectioners' sugar: A very fine sugar, used for making glazes and icings.
- Whole milk: Used to thin the confectioners' sugar for the glaze.
"Chock-full of dried fruit, almonds, and spices, the German stollen is a dense bread that is traditionally oblong, symbolizing a swaddled infant. The history of stollen dates to 15th-century Dresden, where the first German Christmas market was held (a festival still honors it each year).
The bread has evolved since then, gradually becoming richer and sweeter. In this version, a recipe from Martha's mother, Martha Kostyra, pieces of the dough are braided, letting drizzles of the icing pool in the baked loaf 's twists and turns.”
Martha Stewart Living, December 2009
December boozy theme was a fun one for me. I had quite a few ideas in mind and they were all Christmas related. I knew it was time to finally try Martha’s Stewart’s mother’s Christmas stollen. I’d been wanting to make it since I saw it in the 2009 December issue. This was year was the year to bake this beautiful Christmas bread.
I’ve already shown you two stollens here since I started my blog: the first one and the second one. The one I made last year had a funny story with it because I swayed from a recipe I was comfortable with to try a Cooking Light recipe and it just did not turn out well for me. I didn’t give up and tried again with the first recipe that was successful for me the year before and had much better results.
Is stollen the same as fruitcake?
While stollen and fruitcake share some similarities, they are actually two different cakes. Stollen is made with a yeasted dough, which gives it a light and fluffy texture. Fruitcake, on the other hand, is denser and more cake-like in consistency.
How to make stollen?
First thing after gathering all your ingredients, you whisk together flour, granulated sugar, salt, mace, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in milk and melted butter. Add dissolved yeast and the eggs. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth.
Next step is to drain raisins and currants. Add raisins, currants, almonds, citron, orange peel, apricots, and lemon zest to dough, and continue kneading until incorporated, about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, knead in more flour.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.
Punch down dough, divide into 6 even pieces, and roll each piece into a 15-inch-long log. Braid 3 logs together, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 logs.
Cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours more.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stollen until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Beat together confectioners' sugar and milk. Drizzle stollen with icing just before serving.
- All-purpose flour: You can substitute with equal parts of whole wheat flour for a denser, nuttier flavor.
- Granulated sugar: Honey or brown sugar can be used as alternatives, but keep in mind the moisture content they add.
- Ground mace or cinnamon: Other sweet spices like cardamom or allspice can be used instead.
- Freshly grated nutmeg: Ground nutmeg can be used, but adjust for taste as it's often more potent.
- Whole milk or unsweetened almond milk: Other plant-based milks like oat or soy can replace these.
- Unsalted butter or vegan butter sticks: Coconut oil can be a suitable replacement for a dairy-free version.
- Golden raisins: Try cranberries or cherries for a tart twist.
- Dried currants: If unavailable, you can use chopped raisins.
- Cognac or orange juice: Apple juice or rum can be used as substitutes.
- Blanched almonds: Pecans or walnuts are also great alternatives for a different nutty flavor.
- Diced candied citron or orange peel: Lemon peel can be used for a brighter citrus note.
- Diced dried apricots: Chopped dates or figs are a delicious alternative.
- Confectioners' sugar: If not available, you can create your own by blending granulated sugar until fine.
After baking, ensure the bread completely cools down before storing. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the bread.
Slice the loaf into individual portions, wrap each slice well to avoid freezer burn, and then place them in a freezer-safe bag or container. The frozen slices can be kept for up to 3 months. To enjoy, defrost on the counter or toast straight from the freezer.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t have Cognac on hand you can substitute it with even brandy. I used a plum brandy the second time I made it.
Yes! If you aren’t into baking with alcohol, you can just soak the raisins in orange juice and it will still be absolutely wonderful.
The bread was soft and smelled incredible while it was baking. The dough with this recipe was very easy to work with. The glaze gave it a little extra sweetness and it was not overpowering.
My dad told me today that he’s ready for me to bake another one and I told him I would work on it this week. The kids loved it…I loved it. I'd still like to get my hands on some mace and try this recipe again. 😉 This is a recipe that will be made here every year for Christmas.
There are many ways to enjoy stollen, but one of the most popular is to slice it and serve it with a dollop of butter or cream cheese. This rich and decadent treat is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season! It is typically powdered with sugar or covered in a glaze, and sometimes decorated with candied fruit.
Christmas stollen is typically made with dried fruits like raisins and cherries, as well as nuts and spices. This combination of ingredients gives the cake a sweet and slightly savory flavor that is simply irresistible.
Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it impart. Mace's strong aroma is similar to a combination of pepper and cinnamon.
Grated nutmeg would be the closest substitute. Ground all spice could also work but is much stronger.
Some other holiday breads to enjoy:
- Stollen Wreath
- Pan Dolce Genovese
- Bundt Panettone
- Pistacchio Cream Nut Roll
- Christmas Stollen
- Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Hard Sauce
Source: Martha Stewart
Slightly updated October 2022
Did you make this? Please RATE THE RECIPE below:)
Traditional German Christmas Stollen Recipe
For the dough
- 5 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour plus more for surface and more if needed
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace I used cinnamon instead
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup whole milk* warmed, could use dairy-free milk like unsweetened almond mikl
- 5 ounces 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted could use vegan butter sticks to keep dairy-free
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast from two 1/4-ounce envelopes, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 7 1/2 ounces golden raisins 1 1/2 cups, soaked in 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 5 ounces dried currants* 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ( soaked in Cognac), could soak in orange juice to keep alcohol free
- 1/4 cup Cognac could soak in orange juice to keep alcohol free
- 5 ounces blanched almonds 1 cup, coarsely chopped
- 4 ounces diced candied citron* 2/3 cup
- 2 ounces diced candied orange peel* 1/3 cup
- 2 ounces diced dried apricots 1/3 cup
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Vegetable oil for bowl
For the glaze
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
- Whisk together flour, granulated sugar, salt, mace, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in milk and melted butter. Add dissolved yeast and the eggs. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth.
- Drain raisins and currants. Add raisins, currants, almonds, citron, orange peel, apricots, and lemon zest to dough, and continue kneading until incorporated, about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, knead in more flour.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.
- Punch down dough, divide into 6 even pieces, and roll each piece into a 15-inch-long log. Braid 3 logs together, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 logs.
- Cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours more.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stollen until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Beat together confectioners' sugar and milk. Drizzle stollen with icing just before serving.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.