What is German Christmas without Christmas markets and mulled wine and stollen? Even if a typical German-Austrian fruit cake, the stollen made its way through Europe and North America to land at pretty much every Christmas table.
Yet, of course, the most notable stollen remains the Dresden one. The story goes back to the oldest German Christmas market, founded as a one day market in 1434 to been the best one in Saxony nowadays, because of its special atmosphere and the tallest Christmas pyramid (14meters). The Striezelmarkt in Dresden got its name from the stollen, indeed.
The Striezel was the name of a type of cake sold at the market – a light airy cake, produced from flour and oats in the shape of entrance to a mine tunnel (the literal meaning of stollen) was reflecting the area’s silver and tin mining history.
The story of the stollen as a Christmas pastry started in the mid 15th century’s Saxon Royal Court. The method of preparation was supervised by the Church Council and the shape was now to depict the Christ Child wrapped in a blanket, thus the name Christstollen. Following the fasting rules of the Advent season, the cake was a basic and tasteless mixture of flour, yeast, oil and water.
At the end of the century Pope Innocenz VIII blessed the adding of butter to the stollen with what is known as the “butter-letter” (Butterbiref). The Royal family could enjoy butter-rich stollens, but bakers had to pay a “fine” which was going for building of churches.
In the next centuries, following the butter-letter, the Christmas bread evoked to a sweet, rich in butter pastry with many dried fruits and marzipan – just as we know and enjoy it today.
The stollen reached its glorious moment in the year 1730, when August the Strong, elector of Saxony and king of Poland, according to the story, ordered the baking of a 1.8 tons stollen (it took 100 bakers a week-work). No wonder that Dresden Stollen still carries a special seal depicting the famous king.
This glamorous baking event is the historical model for today´s annual Stollen Festivals, which take place in Dresden, every Saturday prior to the 2nd Advent. This year’s Stollen was 4.34 meters long and weighted 3.341 kilos.
The Dresden Christmas Stollen came to the British and American taste only in the 20th century. With the first written reference in the English language coming from a 1906 cooking book with typical German food German Cookery for English Kitchen. Of course, there was a recipe for a Stollen!
And it was some decades later that Dresden Christ Stollen started been parched and exported in metal sheet boxes to North America.