For as long as I can remember, my mom made what she called Stollen every year at Christmas. Traditionalists would not recognize our family’s rendition of Stollen, which is similar to fruitcake. Ours would be described best as a tender sweet roll pastry cradling fresh or canned fruit, with nuts and a sweet glaze topping.
I can still remember the aroma of the yeast bread as a child and the large roasting pan we used to mix the dough in by hand. Cherry, blueberry, almond, apple, peach, and apricot flavors would make it hard to choose just one, so we would fill our plates with slivers of them all. Of course, each of us had a different favorite and Mom faithfully indulged us. She learned to make this delightful pastry from her sister, Louise, who was a tremendous cook.
My sister, Debbie, and I have carried on the tradition with our own families, teaching our children to make it as well. It is part of our family’s Christmas breakfast every year and we often give it as a gift to friends.
Making this Stollen recipe as gifts, she has made dozens of them at a time (usually by request), so this method made it easier to create more varieties with custom sizes.
Years ago, mine deviated in shape to resemble a Swedish Tea Ring or what some call a Christmas wreath. I liked the presentation and I can divide the dough to make smaller rings for gifts, about the size of a dinner plate. Our family and friends settled on just a few favorite flavors—Blueberry, Cherry, and Blueberry-Cream Cheese (recipe below)—so this method has worked well for us. I have also experimented with different flour mixes to incorporate whole wheat here and there, or layered butter into the dough like a croissant to give it a richer texture from time to time.
It is heartwarming to know my mom, extended family, and close friends are enjoying this delicious Christmas breakfast just as we are. Although separated by distance, we relish each bite of this family tradition, as though for just a moment, we are together again.
Blueberry-Cream Cheese Christmas Stollen
1/2 Recipe Sweet Roll Dough (see below)
1 can Wilderness More Fruit Blueberry Pie Filling
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package cream cheese (8 Oz), softened at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
BLUEBERRY FILLING: Put pie filling in a colander with fairly large holes. Shake colander from side to side to remove as much filling so that mainly the fruit remains. Lightly chop berries to make a very chunky paste.
CHEESE FILLING: Beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, egg yolk, lemon peel, and lemon juice.
Roll 1/2 Sweet Roll Dough into rectangle, 15×9 inches, on a lightly floured surface. Spread cream cheese filling over dough with spatula. Spread blueberry paste over cream cheese leaving 1 inch clear at edge of dough. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough to seal well. Gently stretch roll to make even.
Shape into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down (if not using parchment paper, butter baking sheet). Pinch ends together to seal ring. With scissors, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals. Gently separate the sections just a little. Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.
Heat oven to 375° (if using sliced almonds, this is a good time to toast them while waiting for pastry to rise). Optional egg wash: Just before baking, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of cream together (milk or water can also be used). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the stollen with the egg wash to give the finished pastry a shiny, golden appearance.
Bake stollen until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 minutes of baking; if ring browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil while it finishes baking.
GLAZE: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/4 almond extract until glaze is smooth. Place in a Ziploc® bag and press down toward a bottom corner. Snip the corner when you are ready to glaze and simply squeeze desired amount of glaze onto ring.
Store loosely wrapped in aluminum foil or in a storage container with the lid askew so the pastry remains moist, but not soggy.
Sweet Roll Dough
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk, scalded then cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour. Mix until smooth*. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough. Shape, let rise and bake as directed.
Do-ahead Tip: After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days. Refrigerating the dough will help develop the flavor of the dough, but is not necessary.
Note: Up to 1/2 of the all-purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour for a wheat pastry.