With Christmas fast approaching, it would be remiss not to discuss one of the most iconic seasonal treats ever: Dresdner Christstollen.
Despite there being over half a dozen (and counting) Christmas stollen varieties around, the Dresdner stands on a pedestal and has stood there since the early 15th century, at least.
In the article below, we’ll be answering thirteen most frequently asked questions about Dresden stollen.
What is Dresdner Stollen?
Dresdner Christstollen or Dresden stollen is a type of stollen, German sweet bread with dried fruits and nuts, eaten during the winter holidays.
It’s typically shaped like a large log (4.4 lbs being considered the traditional weight) and covered with powdered sugar.
Dresdner stollen is widely considered to be the first ever type of stollen. According to several sources, the very first stollen bread was baked in Dresden in 1329 as an offering to the Bishop of Nauruburg. The bread, however, isn’t named. We just have a description of a sweet raisin bread baked at a monastery near Leipzig in Naumburg dated by the year 1330.
Other sources claim that it’s about a century younger, with the first stollen being baked in early 1400 during the advent season, as a symbolic religious treat, representing either baby Jesus Christ swaddled in white cloth or a camel carrying the gifts for Christ when he was born (with humps on the top of the loaf representing the camel’s humps, and fruits and nuts representing the gifts).
Still, one claim remains consistent through various sources: the first stollen was baked in Dresden, and it has been a staple treat at the famous Dresden’s Christmas Market (Striezelmarkt) since the mid-15th century. It is a seminal German Christmas food and, to this day, the most popular type of stollen in its native country.
Why is Dresden Stollen the Most Popular Type of Stollen in Germany?
To put it simply: name recognition. Dresdner Christstollen is considered the classic stollen, the one most people default to during the holidays. Consider it the stollen equivalent of cheese pizza. Sure, everyone likes the various toppings, but cheese pizza, in the end, is a reliable classic.
It’s somewhat of a similar situation: there are various stollen types, with a lot of different ingredients used to flavor stollen. Depending on the proportions of each ingredient, the sweet bread transforms into an entirely separate variety, like Mandelstollen (ger. “almond stollen”), Mohnstollen (ger. “poppy seed stollen”), or Marzipanstollen (ger. “marzipan stollen”).
In each case, there are strict qualifying proportions for the main ingredients.
What Does Dresdner Stollen Taste Like? Is It Very Sweet?
Dresden stollen is generously flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, and contains a high amount of candied citrus, dried fruits, and nuts.
Due to its contents, it tastes like a light fruitcake, with a robust nutty aroma, highlighted by the spices.
Interestingly, the dough tends to be low in sugar (and it’s not uncommon for some bakeries to skip it altogether. Germans prefer their desserts less sweet than Americans, and stollen is a perfect example: most consider the sweetness from candied fruit and peel, raisins, and powdered sugar topping to be more than enough.
What Makes Dresden Stollen Special?
Dresdner Christstollen is the only type of stollen with protected status, Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) to be exact. This means that:
Authentic Dresdner stollen can only be made in the city of Dresden and several other areas in the Federal State of Saxony;
The bakers must follow strict guidelines when preparing Dresden stollen. Unlike many other foods with PGI status, there is no universal Dresden stollen recipe, but rather it must contain a specific ratio of key ingredients.
For example, the guidelines do not regulate the amount of sugar or spices in the dough, but a stollen cannot qualify as a Dresdner Christstollen unless it’s:
Made with either type 405 or 550 wheat flour;
The amount of butter is no less than 50% relative to the amount of flour;
Raisins are at 65% relative to the amount of flour;
Candied oranges and lemons (the only type of dried fruit added to authentic Dresden stollen) at 20%;
Almonds at no less than 15%.
Does Dresden Stollen Have Marzipan in It?
No. While marzipan is a common addition to many types of stollen and there’s even an entirely separate variety of Marzipanstollen (the stollen must contain no less than 5% of its weight in marzipan to qualify as a Marzipanstollen), the classic authentic Dresden stollen contains no marzipan.
Does Dresden Stollen Have Alcohol in It?
Now, this is a bit tricky. Unlike other additions, there are no strict guidelines mentioning alcohol when it comes to Dresden stollen recipes. It’s highly unlikely that the original recipe contained any, though many bakers take the absence of a decisive “no” as permission.
Interestingly, adding alcohol seems to be specific to Dresden-based bakers. You’re less likely to find alcohol-infused marzipan, almond, or chocolate stollens than alcohol-infused Dresden stollen.
The alcohol of choice is most commonly dark rum, though it’s sometimes swapped for brandy. The stollen doesn’t tend to taste alcoholic at all, with the minuscule amount usually just amplifying the aroma and flavor. But if you wish to have an alcohol-free stollen, the easiest way is to simply ask the bakery employee if they’ve added any (or check the ingredient list on the pre-packaged stollens).
How Should Stollen be Served? Do You Eat Stollen Warm or Cold?
Stollen is usually served already sliced. The slices are supposed to be thick, reminiscent of artisanal bread slices, at about 2cm (0.8 inches).
Stollen is traditionally eaten at room temperature, with slices served either right away or very soon after being cut, but it’s not rare to have it slightly warmed as well. In recent years it has become more and more common to have the slices toasted or microwaved before serving the bread.
How Do You Eat Dresdner Stollen? What Pairs Best with Dresdner Stollen?
Dresden stollen is typically served with butter, honey, and jam. While we may perceive stollen as closer to a fruitcake, for Germans it's a type of bread and they treat it as they would any other bread.
Other toppings like cream cheese and clotted cream have become more and more common with the stollen’s popularity increasing in other countries, however, they’re not considered classic pairings.
Stollen can also be eaten by itself, accompanied with only a cup of hot tea or coffee (or a glass of rum, brandy, or Marsala wine, if you’re feeling a bit spicy and serving the stollen at the end of the day).
When Should Dresden Stollen Be Eaten? Is it Breakfast or Dessert?
Apparently, there are some confusing opinions going around about when it is customary to eat stollen, common enough to have it pop up in google searches.
It’s true that Germans often enjoy stollen as a Christmas day breakfast, serving it along with coffee and jam. But being a popular breakfast option doesn’t automatically preclude it from being enjoyed during other meals.
In essence, Dresden stollen is just a type of bread and can be enjoyed as any other bread. Well, somewhat. Maybe don’t try to pair it with soup and roast. But it can most definitely be enjoyed as a dessert after dinner, with your choice of a drink.
How Long Does Dresdner Stollen Last (Once Opened)?
Dresden Stollen is a very sturdy and long-lasting bread. The original recipe was created long before refrigerators were a twinkle in their creator's eye, and the recipe was designed to reflect that.
All the butter and spices made stollen a luxury food during the middle ages (cinnamon had yet to become an easily acquired commodity; until the 19th century it was an expensive ingredient not used in everyday foods) and the bread was supposed to last for a few weeks in the pantry.
And that was before we had the luxury of vacuum packaging.
Even an artisanal, freshly baked Dresden stollen with no artificial preservatives will last for at least 3-4 months if properly stored. Properly stored means kept at a dry and cool, dark place, protected from the direct influences of moisture, oxygen, and heat.
Commercially packaged Dresden stollen can easily last up to an entire year as long as the packaging isn’t damaged. Shelf life may significantly vary between different brands, from 6 to 12 months (though the latter is more common), so make sure to check the label for the expiration date.
Interesting tidbit: it’s actually better to buy the bread in advance and keep it in the pantry for 3-4 weeks before opening. Stollen becomes more moist and flavorful the longer it rests, with ingredients infusing it with a more robust aroma and flavor.
Once the stollen is opened and cut, its shelf life significantly reduces, though it will still be good for consumption for several more weeks at least. The main problem with a stollen that’s been cut isn’t that it may go rancid or moldy, but that it may dry out and become stale. Most optimally, you’d keep it wrapped in a cloth, or, at the very least, in plastic wrap, and consume it within 2 weeks after being cut open.
But with proper care and storage, it can easily be fit for consumption for about a month.
Why Does Stollen Last for So Long?
Apparently, the reason is the high ratio of fats and dried fruits in the bread.
Should Dresdner Stollen be Kept in the Fridge?
It’s not necessary. As long as stollen is protected from exposure, it can be kept at room temperature in a bread box or a pantry, and be completely fine for weeks upon weeks.
But if you’re keeping your heating at a higher temperature, or have to work with limited space and simply can’t keep the stollen anywhere else, it’s fine to keep it in the fridge.
Just make sure to keep it properly wrapped so that the Dresden stollen is properly dense and moist when you finally decide to cut into it.
Can You Freeze Dresdner Stollen?
Yes, you can! Again, you don’t really need to, not during the winter holiday season: Dresden stollen is likely to get eaten much faster than it has time to go off.
But if you want to eat Dresden stollen year-round, then keeping it in the freezer is definitely the way to go, as you won’t be finding any during the summer months.
Usual rules of freezing pastry apply: wrap the stollen (or each individual slice, if you’ve decided to pre-slice it for thawing) in plastic wrap, and preferably store it in an airtight container on top.
Stollen is one of the easiest pastries to defrost: it can be done in an oven, in a pan, or even in a microwave. Though all of these methods run a risk of drying it out more than necessary, it would be better to defrost the slices overnight in the fridge, and then quickly toast them or slightly heat them up in a pan.
A frozen stollen will last around 6 months.
Explore Yummy Bazaar’s Holiday Assortment for More Traditional Christmas Treats:
Yummy Bazaar hosts one of the largest online selections of gourmet holiday treats, with a wide variety of items from across the globe. Explore the Italian section for a wide assortment of gourmet panettone or pandoro, go to the Spanish section for authentic Christmas turron nougat candy or check out the German collection for high-quality marzipan, far too often overlooked during the Christmas celebrations. Or maybe you’d like to go a little original with your choice of Christmas gingerbread cookies? You’ll find an assortment from all over the world, from German Lebkuchen to Swedish Pepperkakkor to French Nonnettes. All it takes on your part is sparing a few minutes to stock the cart with all your favorites, and we’ll take it from there, ensuring the goodies get delivered to your doorstep ASAP.