Edible Gift

Stollen: The Ultimate German Christmas Bread

A make-ahead holiday classic that only gets better with age.

December 17, 2021
Photo by Mark Weinberg

It's December, which means the holidays are nigh! Today, we're celebrating with stollen—a traditional German Christmas bread, also known as Christstollen and Weihnachtsstollen (fun fact: Weihnachten means "Christmas" in German). Studded with nuts and dried fruits then dusted with a generous coating of icing sugar, German stollen is a delicious way to celebrate these cold-weather months, especially when guests are coming in and out of your home. Here's how to make it.

Christmas is a time of elaborate fruit-and-booze-laden breads, puddings, and cakes. It is the time of airy panettone and fruitcake and brandy-soaked puddings lit on fire. It is also the time of stollen, a traditional German Christmas treat of yeasted bread stuffed to the gills with brandy-soaked fruit and marzipan, then coated with a shell of powdered sugar.

Stollen is supposed to resemble the baby Jesus asleep in the manger, but looks more like an oblong white puck. But don't let appearances deceive you—beneath the slightly lackluster exterior (no offense to the baby Jesus) is a booze-soaked jumble of dried fruit and citrus zests held together with moist, yeasted dough. And the best part: a central vein of marzipan runs down the middle, keeping the loaf moist and imbuing each bite with a nutty almond flavor. Basically, stollen is all the cozy holiday feelings you've ever had (sitting in front of a fire, opening gifts, listening to carols, watching Elf, etc.) combined in one very festive bread.

What’s In Stollen?

Our recipe for stollen calls for a bevy of dried and candied fruits: flame raisins (the red kind), golden raisins, currants, dried cherries, candied orange peel, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, and orange juice.

And then there’s the booze, which any good Christmas dessert, especially a German one, should have. You don’t need much (just three tablespoons in our stollen recipe) but it’s the effective combination of white rum and brandy that you’ll want to imbibe in.

There’s a quartet of dried warming spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg, as well as vanilla extract, almond paste, and slivered almonds.

Not to scare you, but that’s just for the filling. We never said making stollen would be easy (if this is the first time you’re learning this, news flash: Stollen is not easy nor cheap to make).

The bread is a yeasted sponge dough made with the usual suspects of instant yeast, sugar, whole milk, all-purpose flour, an egg, a little more vanilla extract, butter, and a little more alcohol.

Arguably the most important part of stollen is what distinguishes it from other Christmas breads and cakes that linger during the holiday season: confectioners' sugar. It is applied during the very end of the baking process, just before serving. Once the stollen comes out of the oven, it is brushed with more brandy and white rum, which absorbs into the cake like a boozy simple syrup. And then you dust, dust, dust confectioners sugar generously over the stollen and let it sit, allowing the sugar to form a thick white coating that looks like an avalanche of freshly fallen snow.

How to Make Stollen

I'm not going to sugar-coat it for you—stollen is a slightly complicated bread to make, requiring a hefty ingredient list and several steps. However, if you read the recipe thoroughly beforehand, stick to the instructions, and allow yourself plenty of time, you'll be golden.

The bread takes roughly 48 hours to make, though most of the time is hands-off: The dried fruit mixture needs to soak in a bath of brandy and rum, the dough requires several rounds of rising, and the marzipan filling has to chill. Plus, the finished product requires a 24-hour rest before eating so that the bread has ample time to absorb the moisture from its fillings and allow the flavors to meld.

However, once this rest is over, the stollen will keep for up to three weeks, thanks to the shell of powdered sugar keeping it moist—just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. Bonus: This quirk makes stollen the ideal make-ahead treat for all your holiday gifting, breakfasting, and last-minute company needs. Here's how to make the ultimate Christmas bread at home (ready your rum and brandy):

Stollen Recipe

Stollen, in all its glory. Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • The day before you want to make your bread, mix up the filling. Combine dried fruit, toasted almonds, citrus zest and juice, and booze (typically rum or brandy, or both!) in a medium bowl and refrigerate overnight. Feel free to sub in different dried fruits to suit your preference, or switch up the soaking liquor. If you want to go alcohol-free, replace the booze with hot water. You can also whip up the almond filling and spice mix a day in advance.

  • An hour or so before making your bread, combine yeast, sugar, warm milk, and flour to make a sponge. Cover and let it ferment for around one hour at room temperature.

  • Now it's time to start the bread! In a large bowl (or stand mixer), using a wooden spoon, mix milk, egg, vanilla, and sugar. Tear the fermented sponge into pieces and stir them into the egg mixture. The dough will not be homogeneous at all at this point—don't fret. Add the flour and spice mix and mix until the dough is a shaggy mass.
You may think the fruit mixture will never incorporate. Trust us, it will. Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Turn the dough out onto a clean, unfloured surface and knead for a few minutes until it comes together. It may be sticky at first, and you may be tempted to add flour, but resist the urge! (Okay, a little dusting is fine.) Add the soft butter bit by bit while kneading until all the butter is incorporated. (I found this hard to do by hand, so I used a dough hook in a stand mixer to add the butter.) The dough will be sticky, so feel free to tame it with a scraper if needed. At the end of the kneading, the dough will feel buttery and will have developed some integrity.

  • Let the dough rest on the work surface for a few minutes, then pat it into a flat disk. Add the fruit-and-nut filling and enclose both of them in the dough. Knead the dough until the fruit mixture is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Be patient: if some fruit or nuts fall out, add them back in and keep kneading. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let ferment.
See? Patience pays off. Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a cylinder, press down to flatten, and then create a trough down the middle. Pat the chilled almond filling evenly down the divot. You can either roll the almond filling into a cylinder for a neater presentation or just add in with your fingers like I did. Fold the dough over the marzipan filling, pinch the sides to seal, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough.
  • Form each loaf into a football shape, ensuring the filling is neatly encased in the middle. Make the shape as tight as you can, and make sure any pinched seals are tucked under the loaf.
The best part: the almond filling. Photo by Mark Weinberg
Flip the seal down, and you're almost done! Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Now it's time to make the traditional stollen shape. Using a lightly floured dowel rod or wooden spoon handle, press down on each loaf 2 inches from the edge, from one end to the other, and repeat on the other side. This creates a clean indentation on both sides of the football shape and a concentration of dough in the center. Make the indentations pretty deep, as they will fill in during baking. Repeat on the second loaf.
  • Place stollen on a parchment-lined baking pan. Combine the melted butter, rum, and brandy and brush the dough with it. Cover the loaves lightly with plastic wrap and proof for one hour, while preheating the oven to 350°F. Uncover the loaves, brush them once more with the butter mixture, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through.
  • Remove the stollen from the oven and poke all over with a fork or skewer. While still warm, brush the loaves with the rum butter once again. Finally, dust heavily with powdered sugar until you have a thick, white coating.

  • Let loaves cool fully then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. It will be hard, but be sure to let them sit for at least 24 hours before eating so the flavors can develop. Good news: they'll only improve for the next two to three weeks, so make them now for Christmas breakfasts, holiday gift exchanges, and late-night snacks.

(That is, if you can manage to keep them around for that long.)

Do you have a festive baked good that screams, "It's the holidays!"? Share in the comments so we can add it to our holiday baking roster!
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mintmood November 22, 2020
It seems like this recipe was borrowed from Zingerman's bakehouse cookbook. Its recognizable because of the paragraph about stollen shaping (and dough ingredients quantities).
Anyway, Zingerman's stollen recipe is delicious.
Prathima December 14, 2020
Yup. The author gives credit in the foreword of the recipe. I do like the subtle adaptations to the spices and the almond filling that is unique here.
Stephanie B. December 2, 2019
One of my parents' neighbors used to give us a stollen every year for Christmas (and still does), and I remember my parents politely thanking him, and then feeding it to the chickens after he left. It was dry, dense, and very sweet. But since I've learned to bake, I think I'd like to bake one myself and see if I like it any better than the stale, prepackaged grocery store varieties we were gifted when I was growing up.
jima December 24, 2017
I keep re-reading this passage, and I'm still flummoxed:

"Using a lightly floured dowel rod or wooden spoon handle, press down on each loaf 2 inches from the edge, from one end to the other, and repeat on the other side. This creates a clean indentation on both sides of the football shape..."

This! is the photo that I need to understand this recipe.
tigerlille December 14, 2017
I love stollen and have been making it for Xmas off and on for a couple of decades. I must differ with the author of this article, however; stollen is NOT particularly difficult to make at all. There is a long list of ingredients, but most of those are the fruits and nuts that are incorporated into the dough, and no big deal. I usually come up with my own mixture of fruit and nuts, and just adhere to the proportions given in the recipe. I do not like the addition of marzipan; it overpowers the other flavoring agents, and I always leave it out. But if you are capable of making a basic loaf of bread, stollen should not present any difficulties. My favorite recipe is Mimi Sheraton's Dresden stollen, from her book of xmas recipes. I believe that the book is out of print, but it is easy and cheap to pick up a second hand copy. You can also find the recipe for her Dresden Stollen on line The recipe makes a very generous amount.
James P. November 15, 2020
Hi Tigerlilly
Not to get heavy or anything, but every time I see the word xmas I get a bit offended. Christmas is both a secular holiday and a religious holiday. I feel that the word "xmas"disrespects both. I agree with you on the rest of your post!
Noviegirl January 1, 2022
Hi James,
I used to think the short form was something made up by advertising people, but I recently learned that's not the case, and there's no disrespect. X in Xmas is the Greek letter chi, which early Christians used to refer to Christ, and Xmas is a very old way of saying Xmas.
James P. January 1, 2022
Thanks. Thant's good to know.