From show-off Stollen to Stollen etiquette

Every year in October, when the last migratory birds leave the country, the great baking begins in Dresden and the surrounding area. In the run-up to Christmas, five million original Dresden Christmas stollen are shipped to 190 countries around the world. This is ensured by more than 100 Stollen bakeries in the greater Dresden area. The brand awareness of the Dresden Christstollen is over 80 percent in Germany. You can always recognize the original by the seal with the golden rider. The sparkling gentleman on horseback is none other than Elector Augustus the Strong. It is safe to assume that he would have enjoyed the role of quality ambassador.

Denkmal August der Starke, Goldene Reiter, Neustadt Dresden, umgeben von Fahrradfahrern und Fußgängern / © Foto: Georg Berg
Monument to Elector August the Strong, called the Golden Horseman, in the New Town of Dresden / © Photo: Georg Berg

Pleasure camp with swank

In the spring of 1730, Augustus the Strong invited nobles and military leaders from all over Europe to an army show. It was to be the largest and most splendid baroque festival of all time. For the Zeithainer Lustlager, the Elector had a master baker and 60 baker’s servants bake a huge Christmas stollen weighing 1,800 kilograms in an oven built especially for the festival. The giant stollen, seven meters long and three meters wide, was distributed in 24,000 portions to festive guests and soldiers. 264 years after the opulent Lustlager, a 1,800-kilogram Christstollen was baked again in 1994. Since then, the Dresden Stollen Festival has been considered the highlight of the pre-Christmas season in Dresden’s Old Town.

Zutaten für den Dresdner Christstollen sind Butter, Zucker, Mandeln, Mehl, Gewürze, Milch, Hefe, Orangeat und Zitronat, Rum und Puderzucker / © Foto: Georg Berg
Ingredients for the Dresden Christmas Stollen are butter, sugar, almonds, flour, spices, milk, yeast, candied orange peel and lemon peel, rum and powdered sugar / © Photo: Georg Berg

Ingredients from all over the world

A good Stollen may be many things, but not too dry. According to the statutes of the Association for the Protection of Dresden Christmas Stollen, raisins, butter, sweet and bitter almonds, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, flour, milk and yeast belong in the dough. Granulated sugar, clarified butter, lemon peel paste, table salt, powdered sugar and Stollen spices are also part of the legally prescribed recipe. The addition of margarine and artificial flavors is not allowed. The ingredients range from raisins from Australia to almonds from Portugal and candied orange peel from Italy. Stollen quality as we know it today did not develop until the 20th century.

Fingerprobe. Der Stollenbäcker prüft, ob der Finger beim Berühren des Hefeteigs zurückfedert. Erst wenn bei der Fingerprobe ein Loch im Teig bleibt, ist die Hefe bereit für die Weiterverarbeitung / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Stollen baker checks whether the finger springs back when touching the yeast dough. Only when a hole remains in the dough during the finger test is the yeast ready for further processing / © Photo: Georg Berg

In the 19th century, it was still common for families to spend weeks gathering the often expensive and rare ingredients. With the precious ingredients for several stollen, the women then went with a ladder wagon to the home baker. The baker finished the work and marked the Stollen with the Stollen mark of the respective family. The baked goods were then collected by ladder wagon, stored in the cool bedroom and, according to custom, not cut until Christmas Eve.

Bäckermeister Tino Gierig gibt die in braunem Rum eingelegten Sultaninen zum Stollenteig. 60 Prozent der Masse machen hier die Sultaninen aus / © Foto: Georg Berg
Master baker Tino Gierig adds the raisins preserved in brown rum to the Stollen dough / © Photo: Georg Berg

High season for unique Stollen

During a visit to the Dresden bakery, master baker Tino Gierig shows what is important when baking a Christmas stollen. It all starts with the flour. The Dresden Stollen bakers swear by the Stollen flour from the Dresden Mill. It is similar to type 405, but is stored longer and thus absorbs more moisture. Tino Gierig always uses noble yeast for the fat dough with lots of butter. The yeast is slurried in a flour trough and cold milk is added. In a separate bowl, butter, sugar, candied fruit and a mixture of spices, which certainly includes mace, are added. The other spices and their composition are the secret of any stollen bakery. The stollen season begins in October and lasts until just before Christmas.

Die Hochsaison für Stollen in den Dresdner Backstuben beginnt ab Oktober. Bis kurz vor Weihnachten werden in den rund 100 Dresdner Stollenbäckereien 5 Millionen Stollen gebacken und in alle Welt verschickt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Until shortly before Christmas, 5 million Stollen are baked in the approximately 100 Dresden Stollen bakeries and shipped all over the world / © Photo: Georg Berg

Stollen massage instead of cherry picking

The quality and quantity of the raisins is also of great importance, explains Tino Gierig. The Dresden Christstollen is always a raisin stollen. Many Dresden Stollen bakers use the higher-quality Sultana variety, light-colored and seedless. These are soaked in brown rum for one to two days and then serve as a moisture reservoir in the Stollen. The stollen base dough is carefully mixed with the rum raisins, formed into a roll and cut one centimeter deep lengthwise. Before the Stollen is placed in the preheated oven, it is chilled and baked at about 180 degrees for about 60 minutes.

Nach dem Auskühlen beginnt die Stollenmassage. Die Sultaninen an der Oberfläche des Stollens sind verbrannt und würden den Geschmack beeinträchtigen, daher werden sie vorsichtig entfernt / © Foto: Georg Berg
After cooling, the Stollen massage begins. The raisins on the surface of the Stollen are burnt and would impair the taste / © Photo: Georg Berg

After baking, there is a very special wellness treatment for the Christmas classic. Tino Gierig talks about the Stollen massage with a twinkle in his eye. Almost tenderly, he strokes the surface with both hands and removes the protruding raisins. They are burnt in the oven, would give the taste of the Stollen an undesirable note and later show through the flowery white powdered sugar cover of the Stollen.

Dresdner Christstollen erhält eine natürliche Konservierung durch das Auftragen von flüssiger Butter mit einer Bürste / © Foto: Georg Berg
Dresden Christmas stollen gets a natural preservation by applying liquid butter with a brush / © Photo: Georg Berg

Ayurveda for the Christmas classic

The massage is followed by what Tino Gierig calls the Ayurveda cure. The top of the Stollen is spread with liquid butter. When asked how much butter there should be, the master baker gives the following tip. When you think it’s enough, you should add three more times. After the butter follows the preservation protection with granulated sugar. Again, sprinkle only the surface. The stollen needs a clean bottom for good shelf life. Finally, a thick layer of powdered sugar follows, evenly covering the entire Stollen. The snow-white Stollen is also a Christian symbol. It represents the baby Jesus wrapped in a white cloth.

Bäckermeister Tino Gierig schneidet einen Original Dresdner Christstollen an. Stollen werden immer in der Mitte angeschnitten, so kann man die beiden Hälften zum Lagern wieder zusammenschieben und die Schnittstellen trocknen nicht aus / © Foto: Georg Berg
Master baker Tino Gierig cuts an original Dresden Christstollen. Stollen are always cut in the middle / © Photo: Georg Berg

Stollen etiquette

Whether you order an original Dresden Christstollen in the run-up to Christmas or try your hand at the Christmas classic yourself, there are a few important rules for tasting it in perfect form

  • Always cut the Stollen in the middle, so that the two pieces can be pushed together and the edges do not dry out.
  • The recommended slice thickness is two centimeters
  • Place the stollen piece on the plate. The guest decides for himself whether to turn the piece over and thus elegantly get rid of some of the sugar
  • Stollen is the oldest Saxon finder food. It is not eaten with a fork
  • A storage period of three weeks is considered a guide. In this period every day is more a boon for the Stollen
  • This leads to the last rule, which is almost always broken: the first Stollen is eaten on Christmas Eve. Almost no one makes it and leads to the last tip
  • Order the original Dresden Christstollen in time and enjoy it during the Advent season.
Der Dresdner Christstollen gilt als ältestes sächsisches Fingerfood. Man isst ihn nicht mit der Gabel / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Dresden Christstollen is considered the oldest Saxon finger food. It is not eaten with a fork / © Photo: Georg Berg

Stollen Festival and Strietzel Market

Every year on the Saturday before the 2nd of Advent, the Dresden Stollen Festival takes place. Then a big parade with Stollen bakers moves through the capital of Saxony. Since 1994, the members of the Dresden Stollen Protection Association have dedicated the Stollen Festival to the Dresden Christmas Stollen. Together with guests from all over the world, they celebrate the centuries-old baking tradition, the living craft and the very special Christmas treat. In addition, many Dresden Stollen bakeries also offer baking workshops during this time. There is also a demonstration workshop at the Strietzelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas market. Visitors can take a look at the old craft tradition in a wooden baking oven right at the entrance to the Christmas market. Detailed information is provided by the Schutzverband Dresdner Stollen.

Travel tip: In the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich

You can have the Dresden Stollen sent to your home. Experience Saxon Switzerland only on site. 2024 with cultural highlights on the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich. Special exhibitions in the Albertinum and the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) are dedicated to the most famous German painter of the Romantic period. On the Caspar David Friedrich Trail, you can hike along the same paths as the painter once did and encounter motifs from his famous paintings.

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