Continuing adventures in sourdough: stollen

The “holiday breads” round-up over at Wild Yeast inspired me to tackle stollen, the German fruit-studded, marzipan-filled Christmas bread.  A bonus:  my stollen recipe (from–who else?–Peter Reinhart) uses sourdough starter!  It’s a variation of his panettone recipe (p. 163, Artisan Breads Every Day, which is also the basis for his hot cross bun, Greek Easter bread, and brioche recipes.

For my stollen, I quickly dispensed with the traditional raisins/assorted dried fruit, ditching them in favor of dried cherries (a better match for the almond-paste filling).  The bread has multiple steps, although it’s not as fiddly as you might imagine.  The starter needs to ferment for 8-12 hours before the dough is mixed, but it requires no additional rise/proofing.  Instead, the filled, shaped dough goes into a cold oven and briefly rises while the oven heats.

Flavorwise, homemade stollen has little in common with the boxed versions sold in U.S. stores at holiday time, which are leaden, overly sweet, and studded with horrible fruits.  This stollen is tender, crisp-crusted, and the flavors of cherry and almond shine through.

Cherry-almond stollen


  • 3 T sourdough starter (42.5 g)
  • 1 -1/3 cups unbleached bread flour (170 g)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T water, at room temperature (85 g)

Mix the starter, flour, and water together in a mixing bowl until combined (1-2 minutes).  Knead briefly by hand to make a tacky dough.  Ferment at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.  Starter will swell and bubble, perhaps even doubling in size.  After fermented, the starter can be held for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.


  • All of the starter
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1-2/3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 T sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups dried cherries, plumped in hot water & drained
  • 1 roll almond paste or marzipan (8 ounces), rolled into a 10-inch long cigar shape

Cut the risen starter into pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Combine the honey, water, and yeast in a cup, stirring to dissolve.  Allow mixture to stand 1 minutes.  Pour this mixture over the starter; stir to soften the starter.  Separately, stir the egg, yolks, and vanilla.  Pour over the starter mixture; stir until incorporated.  Add flour and salt.  Continue to mix, using the paddle attachment on lowest speed, for 2 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar in 1/2 tablespoon increments, continuing to mix on low, until it is all incorporated.  Switch to a dough hook and gradually add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time, mixing on medium-low speed and waiting until the butter is incorporated into the dough before adding more.  Once all of the butter is kneaded in, mix for an additional 5 minutes on medium-low to develop the gluten.  The dough will develop strength; when pulled, it will stretch into long, taffylike strands.  Add the cherries to the dough, kneading just long enough to fold the fruit in.

Turn the dough out onto a  floured counter.  Gently pat & stretch it into a 10 by 6 inch rectangle.  Place the almond paste cylinder at one end of the rectangle and roll the dough up over the paste.  Seal the edge of the dough by pinching firmly to stick it closed.  Put the shaped stollen onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (notice I forgot the parchment; it stuck a little to the pan, but wasn’t a complete disaster).  Place it into a cold oven and heat to 350 degrees.  Once the oven reaches 350, bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake and additional 25 minutes.  Remove once the bread is golden brown and interior temperature reaches 185.  Immediately after baking, brush the top generously with melted butter and a thick dusting of powdered sugar.

4 thoughts on “Continuing adventures in sourdough: stollen

  1. That sounds and looks delicious. I love the combination of almond and cherry, and I always make cherry squares at Christmas. I think I’ll try this recipe next year instead though, if I can remember.

    What else do you traditionally cook for Christmas, besides the stollen and the cookies?

    • I’ve never made stollen before: this was my first try. No Germans in my family tree to perpetuate stollen! Holiday baking always involves brownies, and I generally vary the things I make from year to year. This year, I’ll probably make a malted chocolate cheesecake and some savory things (like crackers or cheese straws).

  2. I just made that very recipe this morning from that book! I thought my heavy duty KitchenAid was going to have a heart attack with the constant mixing of the heavy dough for what, 15 -20 minutes total? The book says you can mix it by hand… I’d love to watch someone try! Anyway it came out FANTASTIC and will be joining my repertoire of Christmas baking recipes.

    Next time I may do it all sourdough rather than adding boughten yeast. I wonder how it would turn out if just stretch-and-folded 3-4x at 45 minute intervals as Mike Avery does with sourdoughs. I love that method, it’s great for regular bread.

    I actually doubled the recipe and made four loaves. I had homemade almond paste already in log shape in the freezer, so I pulled them out to use. For the fruit I used chopped up dried pineapple and dried cherries, soaked in hot rum for about an hour because I’d forgotten to start them soaking the night before. I shamefacedly confess I ate 3/4 of a loaf before it was cooled, it was so good!

    • I’d err on the side of spiking with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, simply because I’d be making stollen when my kitchen is on the very cool side. The small bit of instant yeast makes the loaf’s behavior a bit more predictable. I’ve had all-sourdough loaves that simply refused to do anything for 3-4 hours, though they eventually cooperated. It sucks to spend a whole day waiting around on a loaf, especially at the holiday season.

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