Fruitcakes have a bad reputation. They seem to be the punchline to every Christmas joke. (True story: in high school we were in the now-defunct Faneuil Hall Christmas Chorus where we sang a song called “Grandma’s Killer Fruitcake”, which was just as awful as you might imagine.) We’ve actually never had an American fruitcake, but we bristle at the suggestion that fruitcake is a subpar food item. Why? Because we love stollen.
Stollen, for the uninitiated, is a German fruitcake. It consists of a dough filled with nuts, raisins, and candied citrus peels and a topping of confectioner’s sugar. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not filled with all manner of dried fruits (cherries have no place in your stollen!) nor should marzipan be involved. When made correctly, it is delicious: moist and sweet, but not saccharine. For our money, there’s nothing in the world nicer than a cup of milky tea and a piece of toasted stollen spread with sweet butter. Unfortunately, stollen can be difficult to find. When we were small, our grandmother (who was German) used to bring us back a stollen from Dresden, widely regarded as the stollen capital of the world. When we had to start finding our own stollen, however, we realized that it is very tricky to find a stollen of reasonable quality in the United States. So what’s a stollen-loving Bostonian to do?
We would strongly recommend not making your own. Our grandmother, who, mind you, once cooked an authentic Mandarin dinner for thirty Chinese diplomats, rejected stollen-making because it’s “too much of a pain in the tuchus.” Baking stollen is labor-intensive and messy. If you are bound and determined to make your own, however, we must insist that you not follow this Food Network recipe. The inside of a stollen should look like the picture at this post’s left, not some multicolored monstrosity! This recipe seems like a better bet.
If you prefer to buy your stollen, you have four major options in the Hub. The easiest is probably Whole Foods, which makes its own stollen in almond and rum varieties and sells them for $9.99 each. We don’t know that we trust mass-produced stollen, but that sure does seem like a convenient option. Cardullo’s has several varieties of stollen at prices from $7-40. Finally, both Formaggio Kitchen and Clear Flour Bread make their own stollen, although neither will be available for at least another week. If you’re really serious about stollen, however, the best (and, tragically, most expensive) thing to do is to order it from a Dresden bakery. We absolutely promise that it’ll be worth it.
[Photo: Rene Schwietzke]