Kerststol

Kerststol is a Dutch sweet bread which contains dried fruit, nuts, citrus and almond paste. It’s very similar to the German Stollen and is eaten during the Christmas period.

Preparation time: 50 minutesTotal time needed for soaking/rising: 24 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes Serves: 20 or more
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

For the almond paste:

  • 250g/9 oz/2 cups of almonds
  • 250g/9 oz/2 cups of icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 egg white
  • 25ml/¼ dl/1½ tablespoons of water

For the filling:

  • 100g/3½ oz/⅔ cups of chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and/or walnuts)
  • 350g/12 oz/just over 2 cups of dried fruit (currants, sultanas, apricots, figs, cranberries and/or candied peel)
  • 50ml/½ dl/⅕ cup of rum

For the dough:

  • 550g/19½ oz/4½ cups of plain flour, plus extra
  • 260ml/2½ dl/½ pt/1 cup of milk, lukewarm
  • 14g/½ oz/4 teaspoons of dried yeast
  • 80g/3 oz/just under ½ cup of white caster sugar
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 120g/4 oz/½ cup of butter, at room temperature
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk

Make it vegan: use soya, almond or oat milk instead of dairy milk and make sure you use a vegan brand of butter. Use aquafaba instead of the egg white, egg and egg yolk: use 1 tablespoon of aquafaba in the almond paste, 4 tablespoons in the dough, and 3 tablespoons for brushing the Kerststol with before before baking.

Special Equipment

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Tea towels
  • A rolling pin
  • One or two large baking trays
  • Baking paper
  • A pastry brush
  • A sieve, for dusting

Method

  1. Make the almond paste the day before you make the Kerststol. To do so, pour the almonds into a blender and process them into they are well ground and powdery. Then add the icing sugar and grind until the almonds and sugar are well blended.
  2. Next, add the lemon juice and egg white to the blender. Pulse them with the almonds and sugar until a smooth paste forms. If needed, add the water.
  3. Cover the almond paste and leave it in the fridge overnight. Mix the dried fruit and rum together in a large mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave overnight.
  4. The next day, make the Kerststol. Add the milk, yeast and half the flour to a large mixing bowl, mix them together and leave them to sit for ten minutes. Then add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest and juice, egg yolk, one of the eggs and the remaining flour to the bowl and knead everything together by hand for 20 minutes, or until a smooth dough forms. If, after ten minutes of kneading, it seems too sticky, knead in a little flour, and if it seems too dry, add a little more milk.
  5. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it in a warm place for 20 minutes so the dough can rise.
  6. Pour the dried fruit onto the dough along with the chopped nuts. Knead the dough, fruit and nuts together for a couple of minutes or until the fruit and nuts are well incorporated. Then separate the dough into two balls and cover them with a tea towel before leaving them in a warm place for a further 20 minutes.
  7. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
  8. Beat the remaining egg in a bowl. Use a rolling pin to roll the two balls out into circles on a floured surface, until the discs are about 2 cm thick. Transfer them to the baking sheets and use a pastry brush to brush them with the beaten egg.
  9. Divide the almond paste in two and use your hands to roll it into two sausages, which need to be slightly shorter than the length of the dough discs. If the paste is too sticky, add a little icing sugar.
  10. Place a sausage along the middle of each dough disc, ensuring there is a little dough left on either side of the ends of the almond paste. 
  11. Brush the edges of the dough discs with more of the beaten egg. Fold one half of each dough disc over the almond paste in the centre, so the discs form semi circles. Ensure the top edges don’t overlap the bottom edges.
  12. Cover the Kerststols with a tea towel and leave them to rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.
  13. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 
  14. Brush the Kerststols with more of the beaten egg (beat another egg if you’ve run out) and pop them in the oven. Bake them for 30 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Rotate them once while they’re cooking so they get an even coverage and turn the temperature down if you feel they’re at risk of browning too quickly.
  15. Remove the Kerststols from the oven and leave them to cool before dusting them with icing sugar.
  16. When ready to eat, cut the Kerststols into slices and eat them with butter and apricot jam.
  17. Smakelijk eten!

Tips

  • When making the almond paste, ensure you grind the almonds to a very fine powdery consistency. Alternatively, you can also buy ready made almond flour in some shops, which will save you the trouble of ensuring they’re finely ground.
  • The Kerststol should keep for three or four days if stored in a sealed container.
  • Kerststol can also be made at Easter, when it’s known as Paasbrood.

Background

Pronunciation: /ˈkɛr.stɔl/ (kers-stohle)
Home: The Netherlands
Relatives: Stollen (Germany), Paneettone (Italy)
History

Kerststol and Stollen are a traditional Christmas treat in the Netherlands and Germany, and are Germanic in origin: it has been suggested that they first originated as a yuletide fertility symbol. During the Middle Ages they were eaten during Advent, and were deliberately made to be plain and unsweetened as Advent was considered to be a time for fasting. It was only from the 15th century onward that Stollen and Kerststol contained butter and became softer, sweeter breads. As time went by classically Christmassy ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, citrus and marzipan were added and they became sweeter still.

Christmastime in the Netherlands is celebrated throughout December. The main event is on the 5th December, St. Nicholas’ Eve, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), who is said to have arrived in the Netherlands by boat from his home in Spain a few weeks earlier, delivers presents for children. As the largest celebrations take place on the 5th, Christmas itself (Eerste Kerstdag) is a comparatively quiet affair which usually consists of family time, food and church services: it’s actually followed by a second Christmas Day (Tweede Kerstdag), with more of the same, in lieu of Boxing Day. There is less emphasis on presents on Christmas, as most presents were given out on the 5th. Nevertheless, Kerstman (Father Christmas) is said to come from Lapland on Christmas Eve to deliver a few more gifts.

The arrival of Sinterklaas
Sander van der Wel, Intocht van Sinterklaas in Schiedam, 2009
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Intocht_van_Sinterklaas_in_Schiedam_2009_(4102602499)_(2).jpg [accessed 17/12/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

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