Our house is smelling wonderfully, because I’m baking Christmas stollen!
Traditionally, stollen is a German bread, baked in the advent period. Growing up in the Netherlands, though, our Christmas breakfast has also never been complete without a slice of this sugar-dusted, fruit and marzipan filled goodness. The past years I’ve been baking my own, experimenting with different shapes and fillings. This year’s version is a twist on the original: a fragrant loaf filled with raisins, cranberries, nuts and homemade marzipan and shaped into a festive wreath.
Making your own stollen doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it does take a little time, waiting for the yeast dough to rise and the flavours of the filling to develop. As I’ve noticed, though, allowing yourself the time for some mindful baking can be quite a welcome stress-relief in the busy days leading up to Christmas. And at the same time, nothing will more effectively evoke the Christmas spirit than the scent of citrus and spices coming from the rising dough!
If you’re pressed for time, you can of course use shop-bought marzipan instead of making your own – for a vegan stollen, simply check the label to make sure it’s egg-free. However, making your own marzipan is so much easier than you may think! It’s a matter of mere minutes, giving you complete control over the ingredients and flavouring and it results in the most delicious marzipan ever. The basis is simply ground almonds and sugar, kept together by a binding agent – eggs in traditional marzipan, aquafaba in mine. Depending on what you’ll be using it for, you can add additional flavouring, like almond extract, vanilla, orange zest or rose water. As you can see in the picture above, the almond filling used for Dutch stollen is rather course, which is how I like it. For a more smooth filling, or marzipan you can roll out and use to cover cakes, simply grind the almonds just a bit longer until your marzipan has the consistency you like.
For the fruit filling in this stollen wreath I soaked the raisins and cranberries in rum and orange liquor, which gives them a gorgeously intense fruity flavour. If you prefer your filling moist, but non-alcoholic, simply pre-soak the fruit in orange juice, hot water or hot Earl Grey tea until plump and juicy.
Now is the time for shameless indulging in carols and Michael Bublé songs! I wish you happy preparations and lovely festive days.
Vegan stollen wreath with cranberries and homemade marzipan – cuts into 15-20 slices
for the filling
- 50 g sultanas
- 50 g dried cranberries
- 50 g yellow raisins
- 6 tbsp. dark rum
- 2 tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange-flavoured liquor
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- 50 g chopped candied orange peel (optional)
- 50 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
for the dough
- 7 g dried instant yeast
- 250 ml almond milk
- 3 tbsp. maple syrup
- 450 g plain flour
- 50 g almond flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- seeds from 1 vanilla pod
- 60 ml rapeseed oil or other neutral-flavoured vegetable oil
for the marzipan
- 250 g blanched almonds
- 175 g golden caster sugar
- 100 g icing sugar
- 75 ml aquafaba
- 100 g icing sugar
- extra pecan nuts and dried cranberries, plus Eucalyptus leaves or holly/ivy sprigs to decorate
For the filling, mix the sultanas, cranberries and raisins with the rum and orange liquor. Leave to soak while you prepare the dough. For a more intense flavour, you can prepare the fruit filling the evening before and leave it to soak overnight.
To make the dough, start by activating the yeast. In a large measuring jug, mix the almond milk with the maple syrup, then stir in the dried yeast. Put in a warm place, for instance on top of a warm radiator, and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, mix the flour with the orange and lemon zest, the salt and the spices. Add the oil and the foamy yeast mixture. Stir to combine, then knead to a smooth dough. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
When the dough has risen, drain the fruit filling and carefully pat dry with a piece of kitchen paper. Knock back the dough, add the fruit filling, the chopped pecans and the candied orange peel, if using. Knead to incorporate, then leave to rise for another half hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the marzipan. In a food processor, whizz the almonds and caster sugar to a course meal. Add the icing sugar and whizz briefly to combine, then stir in the aquafaba. For a course marzipan, leave it as it is; if you prefer the filling smoother, whizz for a few seconds longer. When too dry, add a few drops of extra aquafaba to make it stick better; when too wet, add a bit more icing sugar.
Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment. On your worktop, roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 20×50 cm. Shape the marzipan into a cilinder of the same length and lay it on top of the dough. Fold the dough over the almond filling to seal it inside, then turn it over, so the join is underneath. Lift the dough onto the baking sheet, then curl it into a wreath shape. Pinch the joining ends together to seal.
Cover and leave to rise for another 30 minutes or until puffy and doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.
Bake the stollen for 25-30 minutes until golden. Briefly cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack.
When the stollen has cooled, stir the icing sugar with 2-3 tbsp. water to a smooth and pourable icing. Drizzle the stollen with the icing, top with the extra cranberries and pecans and serve, decorated with green winter leaves.