Posts Tagged ‘Stollen’

Eggnog from another era

26 December 2014


Berlin, 1945. Somewhere on the streets of Dahlem, a dashing US officer accosts a long-legged 19-year-old, demurely asking for directions to a place he has traveled a dozens times before. They are swept off their feet. One out of an ill-fated, fading marriage, the other from the rubble of war and desolation. They moved to Maryland. So goes our family mythology.

My grandmother always told us the same handful of war stories. Stories for small children, about young children in the war. She told of the day the war broke out while she was at summer camp, how she spent all her pocket money to buy her favorite hazelnut-studded chocolate (it is something little German girls knew in 1939 — that in times of war, chocolate becomes scarce), only to discover, too late, that the nuts were full of worms. She told how her parents had once asked her to watch over the cooking of a duck, a unique feast bartered by my great-grand father against school lessons. How else to know when it was done, other than to try it, just a little piece? Starving, she ate the entire thing. She told of her encounter with the Russian soldier reeking of alcohol who tried to steal her bicycle — unexpectedly pelted by a spew of Russian swear words from the long-legged German girl, he lost countenance just long enough for my grandmother to speed away, back the way she had come. She told us how she met our grandfather on a street corner in Dahlem.

When she married my grandfather, my grandmother became fiercely American; though they soon moved back to Europe she fully embraced an American expat life. But she also remained proudly German, and nurtured German traditions, especially around Christmas. We laid out milk and cookies for St Nikolaus on December 6th, we baked, we opened presents on Christmas eve, we lit our tree with candles.

So today, amid the wreaths and advent calendars, among the candles and the singing, the oysters and the cookies, there are two traditions that I hold dearest. They connect me to my grandmother, and in one grand sweep I like to think they link me not only to our family story but to Europe’s history too. The two recipes that my grandmother sent me, once upon a time, handwritten, slipped inside the letters she wrote regularly: Stollen and eggnog.

Sweet Stollen, a long, patient, and tedious process, which ultimately brings the reward of nibbled bites that taste of the promise of sheltered German childhoods. Boozy eggnogg, the stuff of joyful parties, the mirth-filled evenings of a war-less era.

My grandmother was an elegant, modern, impeccable hostess. Though she was a very good cook, she much preferred to delegate kitchen duties and sit on the sidelines with a glass of champagne and a cigarette. She loved company, and she loved parties. Every 26th of December, my grandparents hosted an eggnog party, to celebrate their anniversary. This is their recipe. In loving memory.


Leonine eggnog recipe, verbatim, probably from the 1950s
(See further below for a slightly adapted recipe using a third of the bourbon, which is plenty.)

12 eggs, from Mrs. Cluck

12 level Tbsps granulated sugar

3 pints bouquet bourbon or rye

1 quart milk

1 pint heavy cream


Crack eggs, separating yolks from whites. Setting latter aside for the nonce, go at yolks with an eggbeater, plying in furiously. Gradually add the sugar, beating it until entirely dissolved. Now enters the whiskey, poured slowly and stirred, its action on yolks being equivalent to a gentle cooking. Then milk, followed by cream (whipped cream if you prefer extra richness), likewise stirred in. Clean off eggbeater and tackle the whites till they stand without flinching. Fold them into the general mixture. Stir in one grated nutmeg. Will serve 12 people (or more). If it’s the whipped cream version, they’ll need spoons.

Merry Xmas!


Eggnog recipe adapted for 2014 — Serves 12
(I use a third of the bourbon stipulated in the original and it is perfect, but feel free to add much more!)

12 eggs

12 Tbsps sugar

1 pint (500 ml) good bourbon or rye whiskey

1 quart (1 l) whole milk

2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream


Separate the egg yolks from the whites, which are set aside for later. In a medium bowl, beat the yolks thoroughly, gradually adding the sugar while continuing to beat firmly. Then slowly pour in the whiskey, still stirring more gently but constantly. Now add the milk, then the cream.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until very firm (until the peaks hold without moving). Gently fold the whipped whites into the rest of the egg/whiskey/cream mixture.

Garnish generously with freshly grated nutmeg.


Merry Christmas Stollen

24 December 2014


It’s Christmas Eve and finally time to cut the Stollen!

Read my story on Food&_ about this favorite German Christmas tradition and the proper way of savoring it (then bookmark the recipe for next year!).

A very merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!


9 December 2010

When my grandmother sent me her Stollen recipe twelve years ago she included an old German newspaper clipping titled “On the proper way of handling Stollen.” It prescribed:

◊ According to strict Saxon rule*, Stollen should not be cut open before Christmas eve – 24 December. Modern practice is somewhat lenient, however, and it is now acceptable to start eating Stollen on the first of advent (four Sundays before Christmas).

Stollen should never be eaten with a knife and fork – not even a dessert fork. It should be savored by breaking off little pieces with your fingers.

◊ The best beverage to accompany Stollen is a good cup of coffee, possibly tea, but never wine or champagne, for which Stollen would be too sweet.

◊  Stollen should be cellar-cool when eaten, presented on a simple wooden board, and cut with a sharp, unserrated knife.

Historic documents mention that “Man’s character can be determined by the way he eats Stollen.” …


Like many Christmas cakes and cookies, Stollen can be made a few weeks in advance.
Makes 2 large Stollen

8 cups (1 kg) flour

4 oz (100 g) fresh yeast

2 cups and 4 Tbsp (500 g) butter

1/2 cup (100 g) and 1 Tbsp sugar

1 cup (250 ml) milk

3/4 cup (100 g) candied orange and lemon peel

2 Tbsp rum

1-2 drops bitter almond oil (or 1 tsp almond extract)

Zest from 1 lemon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (125 g) slivered almonds

2 cups (300 g) golden raisins

1 cup (200 g) currants (Black Corinth raisins)

For the sugar crust:

1 cup 2 Tbsps (250 g) butter

Plenty of confectioners’ sugar


Place a large bowl with the flour in a warm spot until the flour feels warm to the touch.

Crumble the yeast with 1 Tbsp sugar; stir and watch as the mixture becomes liquid.

Melt the butter on a small flame, remove from the heat, and add the cold milk.

Chop the candied citrus peel and sprinkle with the rum and almond extract.

Shape a well in the flour. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar, lemon zest, salt, and vanilla extract into the well, add the milk/butter mixture and the prepared yeast. With a large wooden spoon, mix the wet ingredients into the flour using circular movements. Once the dough starts to detach itself from the sides of the bowl, beat with the wooden spoon for 10 minutes.

Knead the almonds, raisins, currants, and candied citrus into the dough. Shape into a ball, cover with a slightly damp cloth, find a warm spot in the house and let rise until the dough has approximately doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours depending on the room temperature.

Divide the dough in 2 and roll out each half into an oval approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Fold each oval in half lengthwise, place on a buttered parchment paper on a baking sheet and let rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Bake the Stollen for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the outside begins to harden but before it starts to brown. Remove from the oven and immediately prepare the sugar crust.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. With a food brush, cover the Stollen with a layer of melted butter. Using a small sieve, sprinkle generously with confectioners’ sugar. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times to form the crust. Wrap immediately.

To store the Stollen, wrap in parchment paper then tightly seal with aluminum foil and keep in a cool dry place. Never wrap Stollen in plastic. A large tin box would be ideal.

*Stollen is originally from Central Germany and famously from Dresden, Saxony


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