Classic German stollen is intensely rich and sweet, drenched in butter and confectioners’ sugar to last for weeks. Each heavenly slice will stick to your ribs, and it is labor-intensive to say the least.
Thankfully, there is a much easier and lighter version for the rest of us, long prized by German homemakers. Called Quarkstollen, it is just as dense and aromatic, but is moistened and elevated with the country’s legendary fresh cheese, quark. Most important, it can be prepared even during the busy holiday season.
My own take gives tradition a spin: I use less butter and lots of good-quality dried fruit for sweetness. Part-skim ricotta makes a nice replacement for quark here. And my stollen is made with 100 percent whole-grain spelt flour, traditional in parts of Germany. I’m especially fond of its mild natural sweetness with none of the bitter notes that you might find in whole wheat. I am also partial to spelt, an ancient wheat, because people seem better able to digest it than whole wheat, so I can take it to holiday parties without worry.
My stollen is as easy as can be. It makes two smallish loaves, one to gift and one to enjoy. The only note: Please give your dried fruit ample time to soak in rum or apple juice overnight. Trust me on that. And let your dough rest—take a break yourself—one hour (or up to 24 hours in the fridge). This gives you loads of flexibility in the midst of holiday franticness.
Last but not least, don’t fret over the unusual shape, thought to symbolize baby Jesus in a blanket. Just fold one edge of the dough over the other part-way and press in gently to adhere. If you’d like, place a slim 7-inch store-bought marzipan log with 1-inch diameter into the center in step 7 beforehand.
Maria Speck is the author of Simply Ancient Grains and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (both by Ten Speed Press). Her work has received multiple awards, including a Julia Child and an M.F.K. Fisher cookbook award. Raised in Germany and Greece, Maria is a veteran journalist and food writer with a lifelong passion for whole grains.