My grandmother, a first generation German-American, made stollen every year for Christmas. If you’ve never had stollen, have you been living under a rock? You can pick one up at Trader Joe’s. Don’t be afraid of the word “fruitcake” on the box; it’s a mistranslation.
Okay, technically, stollen is fruitcake, but in the best sense possible, not in the ironic hipster Brooklyn t-shirt doorstopper British Isles variety, drowned in alcohol, so alcoholic you could put a match to it and explode the kitchen. Though, over the long winter holidays, I will admit there is sometimes a place for this kind of food-on-fire drama that will shake everyone out of their personal device Netflix torpor.
Done right, if you can believe it, stollen is light, with an open crumb, studded with almonds, raisins, currants, candied orange peel. It should taste like you are eating the best winter’s day from your memories of childhood on the East Coast, and afterward you should be covered in powdered sugar and contentment.
You should feel spritely, as if you are aging backwards, and the lordosis in your lower back has vanished. Though I can make no promises, if you slice it thinly and toast it, a slice of stollen will function in your soul as a compass and as a lamp, pointing you in the direction of Good.
What differentiates stollen from marzipanstollen? Marzipan. You guessed it, you clever thing. And if you are like me and are a hound for marzipan everywhere and in everything this addition of almond paste catapults marzipanstollen into a stratosphere reserved for Platonic Ideals.
Toasted, liberally buttered (some might say excessively, but ignore them — it’s Christmas) a plateful of marzipanstollen makes the perfect breakfast on Christmas morning: sweet, caramelized, with a marmalade-ish bite from the orange peel. Somewhere in heaven I imagine my grandmother is in her apron, nodding her head, ja liebchen ja.
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