What Makes a Good Stollen ‘Great’?

Stollen slices

The Christmas Stollen is one of the Germany’s favorite holiday treats. More than 2.5 million Stollen are purchased in German retail stores each year, and countless more are baked in home kitchens. This deliciously sweet and fruity cake (quite different from British fruit cake) has also gained great popularity in North America over the past twenty years. Now one can find a large variety of domestic and imported Stollen in almost all food stores here. So the question arises: what differentiates an average tasting Stollen from a good or even great one? And what defines the uniqueness of the famed Dresdner Stollen? Here are some of the secrets revealed:

The secrets of great-tasting Stollen

The best tasting Stollen contains select quality wheat flour, yeast, butter (instead of margarine or vegetable oils), dried raisins, sultanas or currants soaked in rum, orangeat (candied orange), Zitronat (candied lemon), and powdered sugar as a topping. Occasionally, marzipan, vanilla extract, almonds nut, and spices are used to enhance flavors. The standards of the German bakers association prescribe that for every 100g of flour, Stollen must contain at least 30g of butter and at least 60kg of dried fruits.

Top-quality Stollen are incredibly delicious, and – if consumed in moderation – will not add to your waistline. They have just the right amount of moisture, yeasty texture, balanced taste, yet distinct individual flavors of each component and are not too sweet. The right amount of butter is key. Light Weight Stollen doughs contain up to 10% fats, Medium Weight Stollen contains up to 30% fats, and Heavy Weight Stollen contains up to 50% fats. Due to its high content of fats and fruits, Stollen keeps fresh and can be stored for a long time before getting rancid or stale. Although not light in calories, high-quality Stollen burns fast and does not make you feel heavy. Connoisseurs can taste the difference.

Stollen varieties:

  • Mandelstollen (with almonds) – must contain at least 20kg of almonds per 100kg of flour
  • Marzipanstollen (with marzipan) – must contain at least 5% of its total weight in marzipan or lesser quality persipan
  • Mohnstollen (with poppy seeds) – must contain at least 20 kg of poppy seeds per 100 kg flour
  • Nussstollen (with hazelnuts or walnuts) – must contain at least 20kg of nuts per 100kg flour
  • Butterstollen (with more butter, dried fruits and/or almonds) minimum of 40kg butter and 70 kg dried fruits; almonds or marzipan can replace 10kg of the dried fruits
  • Quarkstollen (with quark or cottage cheese) minimum 40 kg quark and 20kg butter or other fats
  • Dresdner Stollen (protected recipe under EU law) see description below

Raisins, Sultanas or Currants?

Stollen can be made with any of the three dried fruits; they just have to be from top quality suppliers. Many great stollen varieties use sultanas because of the lighter color. What is the difference? Raisins are dried white grapes, made from distinct varieties, such as Thompson Seedless or Muscatel and are produced mainly in the USA, Turkey, Greece and Australia. Sultanas are smaller, sweeter and lighter than raisins, with a distinctive golden-pale color and no seeds inside. They originated in Manisa, Turkey, and most sultanas still come from that country. Currants are dried, black, seedless grapes originally produced in Greece. They are also known as ‘raisins of the sun’.

The secret of Dresdner Stollen

As the former capital of the wealthy kingdom of Saxony, Dresden developed a vibrant culinary scene over the centuries and, correspondingly, churned out a great number of culinary inventions. That also applies to the stollen. According to a 100-year-old recipe, Dresdner Stollen has to be made with a distinct ratio of key ingredients, otherwise it’s not Dresdner Stollen. Here are the ratios:

For 1.5 kg of flour, use 300gr sugar, 625 g butter, 125g lard, 750g Raisins, sultana or currants (softened in rum), 375 g of candied lemon zest, 375 gr sliced almond, 110 g yeast, 1 dash of salt, grated lemon peel, and 250 g milk. Store in a cool place after baking, before it is ready to eat.

Voila! These are (part of) the secrets of how to make a great tasting Stollen.

According to EU law, the name Dresdner Stollen is protected; that is, products sold under this name had to be made in or around the city of Dresden. The protection of geographic origin preserves distinct identities, qualities, and recipes for well-known regional European specialties. Dresdner Stollen is one of these select few foods. The Dresden bakers have to join the Association for the Protection of Dresdner Stollen and abide by prescribed manufacturing rules: they have to make the Stollen by hand, can use only butter, – at least a 50% ratio to the amount of flour used – and can use only rum-soaked sultanas – at least a 65% ratio to the total weight of flour. All Dresdner Stollen have to pass inspections by fellow bakers before receiving a quality seal and the EU seal for protected geographic origin.


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