Originally called Dresden Stollen in the 15th century, this bread was made to immortalize the infant Jesus, wrapped "in swaddling clothing." Made during the advent, the beginning recipes used only flour, a leavener, olive oil and water, pretty tasteless but true to form for the fasting time held by the church during this era. The spices and additions we use today were both banned by the church at this early time, but even without the ban, certain spices were too expensive for the laymen of the time to incorporate into home baked goods, including butter believe it or not.
Over time, with various church rulers lifting certain bans and the reduction of spice costs, butter and certain flavorings began to be used in this classic German bread. With the changing times comes, also, a change in ingredients, this one being no exception.
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine
3 ounces cold cream cheese
1/2 cup dried or candied fruit, chopped*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar to dust
Add the lemon juice and peel to the milk and set aside until needed. The milk may curdle but this is what gives the bread a great flavor. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Combine flour, sugars and baking powder together well in a large bowl. With your fingertips or a couple of forks or knives(in scissor fashion), cut in the cold butter and cream cheese until they are pea-sized.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk mixture with the eggs, then add the vanilla. Mix the liquid with the dry until just moistened.
Turn onto a well floured work surface and knead the dried fruit into the dough only a few times, just enough to hold together well and is feels less sticky on your hands. Roll into an oval or rectangular shape, with a rolling pin, to about an inch thick. Fold one long side over to meet the other long side, pinching to seal.
Place on a large baking sheet and bake 30-35 minutes, or until nicely browned on the outside and when a toothpick is inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool, brushing with some melted butter. When cooled and ready to serve, dust with some powdered sugar.
Makes 1 loaf
* I used candied cherries and mango, for a festive effect but you can use any dried or candied fruit you desire, along with adding crushed, slivered or sliced nuts of your choice.
Chef Jim Baley -- The Yankee Chef -- is a noted food columnist, cookbook author and the foremost New England Food Historian. He is a third generation chef and historian and lives in Maine with his wife and four children. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.