Reclaiming One’s Heritage: Thermomix Christmas Stollen aka Helen’s Famous Stollen
Dad is first generation Irish. Mom is a Hecht. Her family came from Prussia before there was a Germany. The earliest name I have recovered from my genealogical research on her side is Bunnywitz. That sounds Jewish to me. Maybe I come from Jewish ancestry. That could be why I have such an affinity toward the Jewish culture. I have never known why, but I always have been intently interested in everything Jewish. In any case, it is the German culture that I have tried to identify with, as well. Hecht is clearly German. We know not from where. They landed near Plymouth Rock in 1729 and eventually settled in Nebraska. Farmers through and through. Annie Hecht had 5 children, remarried after the early death of her husband, and moved up to the richest farming land in the world in Central Alberta, near Lacombe in the early 1900’s. Harold was her eldest, my grandfather and my mother’s dad. (There are many of my mom’s famous recipes on my site.) Also, my grandmother was a great farm home cook. She preserved, gardened and definitely taught me so much that I have tried to pass on to my gals. Recipes specifically from her are so integrated into our family food culture that they have likely been attributed to my mom, but there are a couple that were her personal claim to fame!
I am as Canadian as one can be. The Irish influence culinary-wise is non-existent. Survival was that family mantra. They escaped Ireland for a better life in Canada and arrived in Saskatchewan on their new virgin land to be farmed in 1926. Just in time for the dirty thirties. My dad hated salt pork to his dying day. There is not one Irish recipe I know. But, dad did bring music into our home. He taught himself to play the guitar, banjo, violin, piano and organ. He sang us his Irish songs and I somehow still see those green green hills of Ireland when I hear the melodies he used to sing to us. We will visit Ireland, as I have connected with relatives there years ago. When we do, it will be for a month. It must be that long to do all we must do. However, the records don’t exist. The home doesn’t exist. At least, that is what we have been told. We had a big trip planned there the year dad got ill. It will happen again.
Mom’s family was much more affluent. Not rich, but always had plenty. Still, the food, culture and all traditions she experienced in her life were truly Canadian. Nothing ethnic whatsoever. Vanja and I did get to Berlin a few years ago. I thought I might find myself there, but I did not. I loved the experience and the city is vibrant, textural and guttural. Yet, I couldn’t see myself anywhere. I was surprised and sad. Who am I, really? From where do I come? Of course, I am so proud that I truly understand what it is to be Canadian. I am a vehement supporter of our multi-cultural mosaic and the opportunity and culture of our land and people. I am simply seeking my first roots.
So, lebkuchen was the first German taste I introduced into our holiday tradition. Thank you, Rae. And a few years ago, mom was asking me about what she should make for her turn with providing the treats for coffee at her condo. She makes about 100 of her famous hot crossed buns for Easter coffee. What should she do for Christmas coffee? She makes killer cinnamon buns, but those weren’t festive, she said. She has made a lovely fruit bread for the holidays, and I suggested that. “Sometimes its a little dry.” was her reflective response. And while she was still deciding if that would work, I said, “Why not make stollen?” “What’s that?” The rest is history.
When mom gets an idea that she finds intriguing, there is no stopping her. She read about it on the internet. Researches recipes and created this one from her readings and her own fruit bread making experience. She wanted to add the fruit into the bread and knead that together like she did with her loaf, but almost all stollen loaves called for the process of rolling the fruit into the dough in layers, as this one does so the outer layer of bread protects the fruit inside the loaf. Thus, the fruit doesn’t stick out of the surface and burn. So, she stuck with the process. As mom does everything like all prairie gals, she made 5-6 of these, each a double batch in a ring shape (below), for her coffees the last few years. Helen’s Christmas Stollen became famous to us all, so it was about time she and I made it together. And, about time I helped her as making that amount of dough is exhausting. Unless you have a Thermomix.
Don’t panic. This isn’t a commercial! The recipe for making the stollen the good old fashioned way is also at the end. But, it is also time that I learn to make it to carry this German tradition forward into our family. We did this together last year. Last Christmas was very different. There were three of us: Mom and Vanja and I. Yet, we managed to have a lovely, restful, relaxing time together. First time since I was a mother that I was childless over the holiday, and first time for mom that she was experiencing Christmas without her husband and one daughter. Yet, I will cherish our memory. Mom came over Christmas eve for our traditional dinner. Vanja and I had been busy all morning, but basically, the day was very relaxing. Mom arrived, we chatted while she and Vanja toasted the festive season, and then sat down in the dining room to our usual Christmas fare. There were no starters or appetizers. There was apple pie for dessert, which certainly is not traditional in our house, but it is Vanja’s favourite. The sarma was missing, but everything else was quite grand, really. We opened our new Christmas jammies, Facetimed both children, and fell asleep watching TV. Woke in the morning to the grandbaby call on Facetime. What joy! Had our coffee. Enjoyed our traditional Christmas Wifesaver Breakfast and then opened a few gifts for one another. Had a laugh or two, then a long winter’s nap and went to the movies. Yup. Odd, eh? But, we have gone to the movies on Christmas Day as a family for years. Even longer story, there.
So, on Boxing Day, instead of shopping, last year, I decided it was the perfect day for mom to teach me how to make her Christmas Stollen. I was going to translate her recipe to make the dough in my Thermomix machine and with some tweaking, what an incredible recipe with have! It is adding the fruit 1/3 at a time and rolling it into the dough that is the hard part. Now that I have done it, I know how important it is to maintain the width of the rectangle. That is key. It is always fun cooking with mom. I love learning from her, though I am certain she doesn’t think I listen to her at all. This year, I have made her famous Christmas Stollen. One iced and being enjoyed by all, a little early. The other in the freezer waiting for Christmas Morning Brunch! I started early so I can help mom make her countless loaves in the Thermomix to ease her bread kneading workout this year!
Christmas Stollen: Mom’s Famous Recipe
The last recipe we did together was her famous Homemade Peanut Brittle. The most popular recipe I have shared of hers that readers all over the world have tried and love is our family birthday cake: her Traditional Homemade Angel Food Cake recipe. As we were making this, I realized we must make her homemade prairie buns and then we did. Bread is different from region to region in Europe, and in Canada, there is the prairie bun. You cannot buy it. You will only find it in the homes of those who grew up on Alberta prairie farms in the twentieth century. Maybe before? I didn’t think anyone made them anymore, but my mother. buns like my mother, but I have recently experienced a them at Danny and Shannon’s when Danny’s mom made the buns for one of Blair Lebsack’s dinners. They belong to Alberta, these buns. Back to the stollen!
Stollen is packed with dried fruit and dried fruit is delicious soaked in rum. Mom decided to use only golden raisins, dried cranberries and mixed peel I use dried cherries. Why? They are also red and delicious. I grow them. I dry them and preserve them. Dried inside the stollen and the preserved ones decorating the loaf.
No need to soak them in advance. If you start just before you make your dough, there will be plenty of time for the dried fruit to plump up.
All dry ingredients into the TM bowl, except the yeast. Did you know yeast and salt should never touch? I add it by itself at the end.
Mix together the wet ingredients.
Upper left, the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients plopped in ready to be combined. Middle, combined to clumping; and kneaded to perfection, out of the bowl, leaving it spotless, below left.
Look at that supple plump little paddle of dough ready for proofing.
Into a well buttered bowl, then into the steamy, humid and warm microwave with a damp wet kitchen towel covering the bowl, to proof for 60-90 minutes. That was easy. No muss. No fuss. Yet, homemade glory with whole nourishing ingredients.
Christmas Stollen: Making the Marzipan in the Thermomix (or buy it)
While the dough is proofing, there is plenty of time to make the marzipan. Almonds are very expensive right now; I try to buy when prices are down and freeze them. If you don’t have a Thermomix, The Italian Centre Shop sells great Almond paste at the best price in town. (Edmonton, Alberta)
It is easy to make marzipan and nut pastes in the Thermomix and saves so much money as well as providing a better-for-you product, yet there is a bit of a learning curve. This is my go to recipe. It takes patience, which I have little of, so I included the detailed photos, as usual. It will be made well within 10 minutes, but most items are finished in this machine within 2 minutes, so the first time, I thought I was doing something wrong. No. Go slow. Be careful to not over heat the machine.
Follow the instructions. The sugar and almond will grind together. Then, the almond oils will start to melt the sugar. The ingredients will clump together.
Keep going; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pay attending to the instructions. Look at that lovely final product, above right. It looks quite pasty to the eye. Almost wet.
Yet, it is not wet. It is almond paste (or marzipan) depending upon how much sugar you added. Almond paste has considerably more sugar and is therefore easier to make as the sugar melts, emulsifying the almonds and creating a paste faster than when there is less sugar.
Gorgeous. Yes, I do add a little extra almond extract earlier on. Why? I love the flavour. Without it, it is delicious, nutritious and economical. With the extract is is DE-licious!, nutritious and economical. All up to your personal palate.
Christmas Stollen: Rolling out the Dough and incorporating the Fruit
“It is alive! The dough is alive and filled with air. Don’t punch it down and take its breath away!” Richard Bertinet’s words that I will always remember when learning breadmaking from him in Bath UK.
Plumped rum soaked fruit divided into three equal portions. Don’t forget to add the nuts!
Dough reverently pushed into a rectangle-like shape, then rolled, ever so gently; 1/3 of the fruit distributed in the center and to the edges on each end, only (not the sides).
So much easier to see, isn’t it? Pull dough over dried fruit from each side to cover the fruit, overlapping in dough in the middle and press to secure.
Turn over, seam side down, gently roll out again, as wide as possible, working to not let the fruit break through the exterior, and repeat.
The rectangle is becoming longer, and narrower. One more time with the last 1/3 of dried fruit and nuts.
The dough is to be turned over, seam side down. Woops. I didn’t realize I made a mistake and did not photograph the loaves i just made.
Gosh! Above, right, reminded me of fitting into a tight pair of jeans, but we did it! Whew! So much easier doing one loaf at a time, and not a ring, to fit the marzipan into the dough. This was not easy, but we just took it slow and made it happen. It is the same kind of idea as the fruit, but the marzipan (or almond paste) is rolled into a log about the same length as the dough, laid down the center, and the dough is wrapped around it.
Egg was is used to secure one end of the ring to the other and to ensure that the marzipan is snuggled into the dough and cannot escape. Tea-towel over top and let rise one more time.
Isn’t that a beautiful sight? Yet, not so easy to plate and not so easy to roll!
I prefer the log loaf as one recipe makes one of the above loaves which is huge. The ring is a double recipe and you have to have a big event to make a ring.
A bottom shot to show you that no marzipan escaped! Cool before icing, or wrap tightly, label, date and freeze. Ice and decorate after thawed.
Christmas Stollen: Making the Icing
I don’t use icing sugar that often, but often enough. It is 2.79 CA a kilo and granulated sugar is half that, or less. I mill it in my Thermomix for 2 seconds one second at a time to make my own icing sugar. No fillers.
I used vanilla and almond above and on the log loaves in the photos. The ring has only almond and is a whiter icing. I love vanilla and almond.
Powdered sugar, room temperature butter and the extracts; cream together with a fork until completely combined.
Slowly incorporate the hot water. Recipe calls for 1/4 cup. I use 1 tablespoon as a rule. Go slow. No rush. Be sure water is hot and that you whip the lumps out of the icing, completely.
Above is the perfect consistency. It is thick, but will flow. Below is too thin. I added only a tablespoon of water, so let it set up a minute or two, and it thickened on its own.
Which you will see below as the loaf is decorated.
Christmas Stollen: Decorating the Loaf or Ring
Traditional Stollen is covered with powdered sugar. I wasn’t “brought up on that”, so I won’t miss it. I was brought up on mom’s hot crossed buns with this same icing on bread, and maybe that is why she has always iced her stollen. It is delicious. Particularly with the fruit and nuts on top.
There’s nothing like red and green a-top a Christmas Stollen. My sweet and tangy preserved sour cherries really drive this recipe to the home plate coupled with the salty roasted pistachios to dress up the icing. This moist fragrant Christmas Stollen, studded with boozy fruit, presenting the aromatic and addictive almond paste down its middle is all dressed up for the party, and it just so happens that’s not until late December!
Just returning from The Netherlands and The Flemish region of Belgium, I crave almond paste or marzipan, and made myself a loaf early, just to get in the mood!
And to be sure the recipe I developed for the Thermomix has been tested enough times to ensure it is the real deal: tried, tested and the ACF seal of approval and original Thermomix recipe! Of course I want to know if you make it.
I love it toasted, too, but that has to be done in a small toaster oven, or on top of parchment, on a cookie sheet in the oven. Who wants a to clean a puddle of almond paste out of the bottom of their toaster?
It freezes beautifully for 2-3 months, tightly wrapped. Yup. The other one is ready for Christmas Brunch and I already know that it is scrumptious! Every year I slice into it, there will be a story to tell as there is in so many of the traditional foods I make for the holidays. I will talk about how fortunate we are to have come from such strong and vibrant stock and to be together. As we slather the butter over our Christmas Stollen, I will explain that we are carrying forward the over 600 years of ‘Stollen’ Tradition, as it is believed to have been first mentioned in 1330 in the Naumburg area, of what is now Germany. At the time, it was called “Christstollen” as it was considered the King of all Christmas pastries in those days. In our family, Great Grandma Helen chose to learn how to make it to represent her German heritage, to recognize those in her past that likely held this same tradition at their holiday table and to share it with her friends and those she loves. I will present it every Christmas morning, beside our traditional 20th century wife saver casserole and the expected homemade Canadian Prairie Cinnamon Buns. Oh, to imagine long after mom and I are gone, that my children will continue to partake in this Christmas Stollen and share our stories.
Christmas Stollen: Slicing into it!
It is so moist, of course it needs nothing more. Yet, everyone knows everything is better with butter! It must be what God has for breakfast Christmas morning slathered with butter. It is that divine. Merry Christmas in November, one and all. Time to get at it, already! Oh, how I love this time of year….
Mom's Famous Christmas Stollen in the Thermomix
Helen McKinney is my mom and the creator of this gorgeous German celebration of the Festive Season. Every Christmas her friends look forward to these gifts.
- 85 grams golden raisins
- 50 grams dried cranberries or cherries
- 100 grams mixed peel
- 60 grams or 1/4 cup dark rum
- 450 grams flour
- 5 grams salt
- 50 grams berry sugar
- pinch nutmeg (1/2 whole nutmeg)
- zest of one lemon
- 85 grams cold butter , cubed
- 10 grams active dry yeast
- 220 grams milk
- 2 eggs , divided (one beaten for glazing the loaf)
- 50 grams pistachios , peeled and chopped
- 300 grams marzipan
Ingredients for Decorating
- 100 grams icing sugar
- 45 grams or 3 tablespoons room temperature butter
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 50 grams pistachios , peeled
- 50 grams dried cherries or cranberries
Combine raisins, cranberries or cherries and mixed peel in bowl with dark rum; soak while preparing dough
Instructions for Making the Dough in the Thermomix:
Weigh flour, salt, nutmeg, sugar, lemon zest and butter cubes into TMbowl; pulse for 2 seconds on Turbo 2 times (butter will appear sand-like)
Weigh in yeast; pulse for 2 seconds on Turbo to combine
Weigh milk into bowl on top of TM lid; add egg
Pour egg and milk into TM bowl; combine for 5 seconds from speed 4-8 until dough clumps into a ball
Knead for 2.5 minutes; remove to a well buttered bowl, place damp cloth on top and proof for 90 minutes or until double in size
Prepare second egg by whisking it to brush on top before baking (and to use to seal edges before proofing)
Lightly flour surface area; roll proofed dough to rectangle 17cm x 37cm or 7 x 14 inches
Combine pistachios with fruit soaked in rum; divide into 3 equal portions and place ⅓ down the centre of the dough, leaving edges uncovered, but not the ends
Fold each side into the centre to overlap slightly in the middle, sealing edges with a rolling pin
Lightly dust surface area again, and turn dough over with seam on bottom; repeat process two more times (see notes)
Roll to a final rectangle of 55 cm x 16 cm or 6 x 22 inches
Roll marzipan into sausage-like cylinder to be just shorter than the length of the dough; place down centre of dough rectangle pushing into the dough a little with the marzipan
Fold dough over marzipan from one side, just covering it, pulling up from the other side, and pinch to seal on seam, brushing with a little of the prepared egg wash to ensure a secure seal
Tuck ends under and lift log to parchment covered baking sheet, seam side down
Brush ends with beaten egg to seal well; cover and proof for 60-90 minutes
when dough has proofed pre-heat oven to 375F
Brush loaf completely with remaining egg wash, bake 25 minutes until golden
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing
Instructions for Making a Ring
Tuck ends under and lift log to parchment covered baking sheet, seam side down forming a circle
Join ends together to form a wreath (use a 12 cm ring or cake tin to form dough around to preserve nice middle hole)
Instructions for Icing
Place sugar in large bowl; place butter and and extracts in centre
Pour bowling water in slow steady stream over butter while stirring rigorously to gather in all sugar until smooth and a thin consistancy (all water will not be used); icing will become firm once cooled, so work quickly
Drizzle over completely cooled wreath shaped dough; decorate with dried cranberries or cherries and pistachios while icing is still soft
To Proof the Dough:
Heat a large glass of water in the microwave on high for one minute to create a hot, humid environment to proof the dough; quickly remove the water and set the damp cloth covered dough into the microwave to proof
When Rolling the Dough:
When rolling dough for the first time, make it as large as possible, as each time it will become smaller and narrower; trying to preserve the width at 6-7 inches is not easy while rolling the dough with the fruit inside of it, but this is important to be able to place the marzipan log into the dough at the end, and seal it securely
Marzipan Recipe is here