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The secrets behind stollen, Germany's beloved holiday treat

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The secrets behind stollen, Germany's beloved holiday treat
Photo: DPA
12:18 CET+01:00
Many people enjoy stollen at Christmas time, and stollen from Dresden is particularly well-renowned. Bakers in the city adhere to a specific recipe, but they also have a few tricks.

It's four in the morning and still quiet in the street. Most people are still asleep. But in Jörg Sarodnick's bakery there's already a lot going on. The baker and his colleagues are mixing ingredients, shaping pieces of dough and putting baking trays in the oven.

The weeks leading up to the Christmas period are particularly hectic, as the bakers produce large quantities of Christmas stollen. Stollen is a kind of fruit bread, made from a leavened dough, containing almonds, raisins, and special spices, and coated in powdered sugar.

Many stollen bakers in Dresden also include a bit of alcohol, although there are also alcohol-free varieties which include marzipan and chocolate, for example.

Dresden is well known for its stollen. Photo: DPA

“Making stollen isn't a work of magic. But you need a lot of experience for it,” Sarodnick explains.

Firstly, the bakers create a yeasted dough, which forms the basis for the pastry. Then, the dough is places into a large kneading machine where further ingredients are added, one after the other. Raisins are added last so that they remain whole.

Another machine then dissects the finished dough into equal-sized pieces. Afterwards, they are rolled into shape and put into the oven. After about an hour, the pieces are taken out. The baked stollen smell delicious, but they're not yet finished. Sarodnick coats his stollen in butter and scatters the icing sugar over it.

The basic recipe for stollen is always the same. But each baker adds their own touch. Some use more spices, while others douse their stollen in butter twice.

Every year, experts check whether bakers are using a specified recipe and whether their stollens are successful. Only once they have been certified may a baker name their product “Dresdner Christstollen”. The bakeries must also be located in or around the city of Dresden.

Sarodnick passed the test again this year. But does he still try his stollen after all these years? “Of course, stollen for me is a part of Christmas. If I didn't enjoy eating it any more, I'd have to search for another job,” he said.

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