CocoaNut recently bought a stollen, or a Christmas cake, from a well-regarded local German breadhaus. The loaf contained tasty bites of almonds, marzipan, rum raisins, and candied lemon and orange, and it was topped with a layer of white granulated sugar. Though it looked good enough to eat, the first-generation German owners of the bakery told CocoaNut to allow the loaf—which came in a standard, clear bread sleeve—to sit on a shelf, unrefrigerated, for a minimum of one to one and a half weeks to ripen.
But why can't it be eaten right away? And won't it mold if it's left out? In Cheese Boy's opinion, "a stollen should be given time to *absorb* the flavors of the ingredients it contains," he says. "Much unlike Marshmallow Peeps (people let those age mostly for texture), aging a stollen is done more to accentuate certain flavors and tastes. Remember, a good stollen should be somewhat dense and NOT overly dry. Time will help achieve this ... so don't hurry it. Let the bread/cake absorb any juices (liquid ingredients) it can."
There are various methods for storing a stollen while it ripens. RUK makes a marzipan version of the cake, allows the loaves to cool, and then wraps them tightly in aluminum foil before storing in a cool attic. "They will last for many weeks that way, there is no need to worry about them spoiling," RUK says. "We always start eating the first stollen the next day and it is delicious fresh. But the flavor is definitely a step up in a few weeks of 'flavor-marrying.'"
RUK says that more lo-fi approaches work, too. "I grew up in Thueringen/former German East zone, and my mother and others around us would prepare about 10-12 large loaves in early December," RUK says. "The baker's apprentice would pick them up on large wooden boards, have them baked in the larger ovens at the bakery and return them, carried over the shoulder on those boards. My mother would simply cover them with a clean cloth and store them in the cold pantry. We ate stollen for breakfast for many many weeks, sometimes they would last to Spring and I never remember them going bad."
After you've patiently waited for the stollen to ripen, what's the best way to eat a slice? "I was advised to enjoy it with a warmed mug of mulled Gluhwein in the evening, coffee in the morning," says CocoaNut. "Can't wait!!"
Discuss: Ripening stollen????