A Recipe for perfectly-spiced Gluten Free Stollen – Scattered with rum-soaked fruit, brushed with rum butter and with a generous helping of almond marzipan packed within… It’s the perfect Christmassy treat. (Updated 2023)
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Gluten Free Stollen – a labour of love
This is my new and UPDATED Gluten Free Stollen recipe (2023). To say it’s been a labour of love is an understatement… Two years in the making and somewhere in the region of 30+ versions to get to this point.
Last year I published Stollen ‘mark 1’ on the blog. And yes… it was ‘good enough’ to put out there. The flavour was (according to my pre-gluten free memory) exactly where it needed to be. But I was never truly happy with the texture, which needed to be more ‘doughy-dense’.
So this year I have revisited, reworked, thrown a few tantrums, and eaten more Stollen than I should have… with no regrets. This arduous journey has been worth EVERY bite. Because THIS is the Gluten Free Stollen I wanted. The one from my dreams and memories. And today I share it with you too… I hope you love it. x
What is Stollen?
Christmas Stollen is a yeasted, sweet Christmas bread that originates in Germany. Known as Christstollen, it is lightly sweetened, delightfully spiced and speckled with booze-soaked dried fruit and nuts. Although not compulsory, many Stollen have a generous helping of marzipan running through the middle, which not only tastes incredible, but helps to keep the bread moist and delicious.
Although optional, I honestly wouldn’t make a Stollen (gluten free or otherwise) without the marzipan… It’s one of the absolute joys of eating it.
Once they have been baked, Stollen are traditionally coated with a generous helping of melted butter (often of the boozy variety) and a liberal dusting of icing sugar (powdered sugar)… A perfect tasty snow scene for seasonal temptation.
A brief history of German Christmas Stollen…
While gluten free Stollen is a very recent thing, the wheat-based original Dresdner Christstollen dates back to 14th Century Germany. As with many bakes, it has changed in texture and ingredients over the centuries to become what it is today. Indeed Stollen started life as a dull and butterless hard pastry (due to a Catholic butter ban). But when the ban was finally lifted by papal decree in 1650, the recipe started to morph into something altogether more edible and delicious and a fitting honour to royalty and dignitaries.
In 1730, King August II commissioned the bakers of Dresden to create a giant Stollen to celebrate the strength of the Saxon army. The Stollen weighed some 1.8 tons, measured over 8 meters in length and was 5½ meters wide… baked in a specially created oven for the purpose. So big was it, that it needed to be transported to the king’s table by a fleet of 8 horses, before being cut with a giant knife.
The tradition of oversized Stollen remains. And still, every year at the Christmas Dresdner Stollenfest, German bakers parade giant Christstollen through the streets by horse-drawn carriage. The Stollen is then cut into thousands of pieces and sold for charity.
Developing a Gluten Free Stollen recipe
In creating my gluten free Stollen, I tried hard to work with the taste and ingredients found in traditional Stollen. While the spicing, marzipan and general flavour were relatively straightforward to replicate, the texture has been quite a challenge. The particular density and ‘squidge’ of Stollen is pretty unique and (it would appear) rather elusive without gluten.
Nonetheless, the recipe shared below is close. And biting into this particular Stollen has taken me back to the days when there were no dietary restrictions both for flavour AND texture.
Traditional Stollen is typically tightly wrapped for 2 to 3 weeks to ‘mature’ before eating (to develop moistness). However, the nature of gluten free flour is such that this particular tradition has been side-lined to ensure a bake that remains edible.
Ingredients for Gluten Free Stollen
To be clear at the outset, the list of ingredients required for making gluten free Stollen is lengthy. I make no apology. If you want a bake that comes anywhere near, you have to be prepared to use something other than a ‘bag of Doves’, butter and eggs. And to be honest, your average wheat Stollen has almost as many ingredients!
Having said this… The actual process of making gluten free Stollen is well within the reach of any would-be baker. And in reworking the recipe, I’ve also managed to reduce both the number of ingredients and stages in the process. So don’t be put off by ‘the list’… It is no reflection of baking complexity.
What you need…
Soaked Dried Fruit
I tested various ratios and mixes of fruit and settled on a combination of sultanas, glacé cherries, candied peel and flaked almonds for the best flavour. While they can be soaked in any booze of choice, I use dark rum which offers perfect flavour enhancement. Whatever you use, soaking the fruit is important to ensure both juiciness and Stollen hydration.
The gluten free flour blend
I’ve kept the gluten free flour blend as simple as possible. And while it remains one that needs home-mixing, it is honestly your ‘secret weapon’ in achieving a texture that brings joy.
My final Gluten Free Stollen recipe uses a combination of potato and tapioca starches, sorghum and oat flours. Alongside these are some ground almonds, psyllium husk and a little baking powder.
Each component has been chosen for the balance of starch, protein and structure as well as to support texture, moisture levels and shelf life.
I wouldn’t advise switching out the starches (potato and tapioca) unless you have to. And the psyllium is essential. However, the oat flour and sorghum can be substituted with other alternative protein flours for dietary need… I would advise buckwheat and millet as possible alternative options. Check out my page on Gluten Free Flours and Flour Blending for more information about gluten free flour.
Spices and flavour for gluten free Stollen
Gluten free Stollen contains a balanced mix of spices to bring it in line with the flavours of traditional Stollen… The dry spice comprises nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice, mixed spice and a little salt. Then there’s a little vanilla alongside lemon zest and lemon juice in the wet mix. The lemon and cinnamon have a dual function of both adding flavour and supporting texture and shelf-life.
This recipe uses a combination of both soft light brown sugar and honey. Specifically, the honey is important not just for the gorgeous natural sweetness it offers, but because it has natural antiseptic properties to enhance shelf life as well.
The brown sugar gives caramel undertones to the Stollen. While I did test it with plain caster sugar, the results were neither as flavoursome or as soft.
Stollen is made with Dried Active Yeast… This is the type of yeast that needs activating before adding to the mix. I use Allinson’s Dried Active Yeast. However, while the dough does need a short while to sit for hydration, making my gluten free Stollen recipe will only now require a single proof.
To activate the yeast, I use a combination of water and a little honey.
Glycerine has been added specifically to support shelf life.
I have tested my Stollen recipe with whole egg, egg white and egg yolk. Hands down the best texture comes from using egg yolk only. Specifically, the recipe uses egg yolk from a UK Large size egg. Be aware however that eggs are not sized equally around the world. So head over to my International Egg Size and Weight Comparison Chart to work out where yours fit. One UK Large egg yolk is somewhere in the region of 20g.
Low fat cream cheese, butter and milk
I’ve tried many variations of fat and liquid in creating my gluten free Stollen. And I’ve tested everything from milk and water to yoghurt, butter (melted, rubbed in or softened), cream cheese and cottage cheese. The final recipe uses melted butter, full fat milk and half fat cream cheese… which together work perfectly.
The marzipan used in my Gluten Free Stollen
Lastly, my gluten free Stollen contains a generous portion of marzipan. While you can buy marzipan in supermarkets, I NEVER do. Why? Because it’s ridiculously easy to make (in under 10 minutes) and tastes way better than anything you’ll find in a packet.
So… Make sure you check out my 4 Ingredient Marzipan Recipe before heading to the shops. It’s not only brilliant for Stollen, but is exactly what you need for Christmas Cake Decorating, Battenberg Cake, Christmas Scones and Gluten Free Simnel Cake. It can even be used to make the most divine Chocolate Covered Marzipan Christmas Stars.
Tips for successful Gluten Free Stollen
As mentioned above, making my Gluten Free Stollen is not difficult and is within the reach of any baker. Here are my best tips for making it a success…
- Weigh ALL the ingredients as stated in the recipe. Accuracy is key in gluten free bread baking and this is a recipe that has been developed down to the final gram. Thus I would advise using a digital scale and preferably one which has the capacity for micro-measures as well as larger quantities. I use these Heston Blumenthal (Salter) Dual Platform Scales.
- Follow the recipe. The most likely reason for a recipe failing is because it hasn’t been followed or the ingredients have been changed. The recipe contains all the wisdom gained from the development of the bake…
Preparing the ingredients
- Soak the fruit well. It needs to absorb the rum and this takes time. If the liquid has not been fully absorbed by the fruit, it will alter the texture of the dough, which will then be less able to hold its shape. For best results, leave the fruit to soak overnight.
- Set the yeast to activate before you start making the dough. It will need 10 to 15 minutes to be readied for the mix.
- Check the yeast is alive. Once the yeast has been activated, it should appear frothy or bubbly (it helps to set the bowl over a mug of steaming water if the kitchen is cold). If it is not active, the yeast may be dead (either the water was too hot or the yeast too old). In this case, throw the mix away and start activation again.
- Weigh and mix the dry ingredients (listed on the recipe card as ‘dry mix’) BEFORE adding to the bowl. This ensures they combine evenly and avoids any risk of the psyllium husk ‘clumping’.
Mixing the Gluten Free Stollen dough
- Use a dough hook to mix the ingredients (except the fruit) into a dough. I always use a hand mixer with a dough hook attachment (my KitchenAid hand mixer is fabulous). But a stand mixer with a dough hook is good too.
- Beat the wet ingredients together BEFORE adding the dry mix.
- Allow the flours to hydrate in the mix. When first added, the ‘dough’ will appear as a runny batter… Allowing it to sit for 15 minutes before mixing again ensures the flours hydrate (at which point the ‘dough’ will have the appearance of thick, stodgy porridge)…
- Add the fruit last (after hydration) and mix through WITH A SPOON. This ensures the fruit isn’t broken down by the mixer.
Shaping, proofing and baking your Gluten Free Stollen
Once the gluten free Stollen dough is mixed, hydrated and the fruit added, it’s ready to shape, rise and bake…
- Shape the dough with lightly oiled hands (oiled food-safe gloves help avoid stickiness). Do NOT add more flour. It will impact moisture levels in the dough and dry the final Stollen.
- Shape gluten free Stollen on baking paper so it can be easily transferred (on the paper) to a baking sheet. Use the paper to help fold the dough over the marzipan when shaping.
- Use the side of a lightly oiled hand to make the Stollen ‘crease’. The crease is traditional and is thought to represent Jesus wrapped in a swaddling cloth.
- Before baking, dust the Stollen with tapioca starch. This protects and supports the crust.
- Don’t overproof. About 35 to 40 minutes is good. For consistency, proof in a pre-warmed, turned OFF oven (60 C), with a bowl of steaming water at the bottom to maintain moisture. Place the Stollen tray on a folded towel to prevent the base becoming too hot when proofing in the oven.
- Bake with steam. At the start of baking, Stollen gets a booster rise from ‘oven spring’. This is best when supported by steam for the first 10 minutes in the oven.
- Start baking hot with steam, then turn the oven down, remove the water dish and cover the Stollen lightly with foil to keep the moisture in. Remove the foil for the final 5 to 10 minutes to give the Stollen a golden crust.
- Stollen is done when the crust feels springy. The surface may also be a little cracked. Alternatively, check internal temperature, which should be around 91 to 93 C (195 to 199 F).
Coating and cooling Gluten Free Stollen
As soon as the Stollen comes out of the oven it will need to be coated in melted (optional rum) butter and icing sugar (powdered sugar)…
- Have the melted butter ready when the Stollen comes out of the oven.
- Be generous with the rum. It truly enhances flavour and makes your Stollen extra special.
- Poke LOTS of holes into the top of the Stollen using a cocktail stick. This will enable the melted butter to seep into the interior, keeping it moist and delicious.
- As soon as the butter has been brushed, GENEROUSLY dust it with icing sugar. Then rub the icing sugar into the butter with the back of a spoon so that it forms a buttery sugar crust. This provides a protective layer to the Stollen.
- Cool gluten free Stollen covered in foil to maintain moisture. Shape the foil snuggly around the sides of the bake on the pan.
Can Gluten Free Stollen be made dairy free?
I haven’t specifically tested a dairy free version of my gluten free Stollen. However, there are dairy free alternatives available for all the dairy ingredients (butter, milk and cream cheese) so these can probably be used to make a dairy free bread. Should you try it, I would advise using a block dairy free ‘butter’ (such as Flora or Stork baking blocks). And if possible, find a dairy free milk with a higher fat content.
Storing Gluten Free Stollen
I have tested my gluten free Stollen stored in a variety of ways and to see how long it lasts. The recipe shared should stay soft and tasty for about 3 days, without the need to ‘refresh’ (although if overbaked, this may be shorter). It needs to be stored tightly wrapped in foil to maintain moisture levels. And kept at room temperature.
If the Stollen has reached a point of tasting a little dry, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to pep it up. It will also taste amazing with thick cream or custard.
Will you make my Gluten Free Stollen recipe?
I hope that this recipe brings a little Gluten Free Stollen joy to those of you who have missed it… If you should venture to make it, do let me know how you get on… Leave a comment at the bottom, email me, or message me on social media.
For loads more gluten free Christmas inspiration, head over to our Gluten Free Christmas Index… And for everything else, our main Gluten Free Recipe Index awaits. It’s your one-stop FREE online gluten free recipe book.
Shared with my love
Gluten Free Stollen (German Christmas Bread) – Updated
- sharp vegetable knife
- oven-proof dish
- Accurate digital cooking thermometer (optional)
- kitchen foil
- 40 g sultanas
- 40 g glacé cherries cut into sixths
- 40 g candied peel
- 5 g flaked almonds
- 25 g dark rum
- zest of one lemon finely grated
- 4 g Dried Active yeast
- 5 g runny honey = 1 tsp
- 15 g hand-warm water (38 to 40 C /100 to 104 F)
Dry Mix (flours etc)
- 40 g potato starch
- 45 g tapioca starch
- 20 g sorghum flour
- 30 g oat flour (or buckwheat flour)
- 6 g baking powder
- 20 g ground almonds
- 12 g psyllium husk (rough-ground, not powder)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt = 1.8g
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp mixed spice
Wet Ingredients 1
- 60 g full fat milk gently warmed (but not hot)
- 40 g unsalted butter (or dairy free alternative) melted
- 15 g runny honey
- 20 g soft light brown sugar
- 1 large egg YOLK At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’) – should be approx 20g Yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp glycerine
Wet Ingredients 2
- ½ tbsp lemon juice = 7g
- 60 g half fat soft cream cheese
- 120 g marzipan see NOTES
Pre-Bake Tapioca Dusting
- ½ to ¾ tsp tapioca starch
Rum Butter Coating and Icing Sugar
- 30 g unsalted butter melted
- ¾ tbsp dark rum
- 1 to 2 tbsp icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- In a small bowl, mix together the dried fruit, nuts, lemon zest and rum and stir well. Cover the bowl and set aside to hydrate (preferably overnight).
- In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and honey and stir well. Set aside to activate in a warm place (if the kitchen is cold, set the bowl over a mug of steaming water).
- After a couple of minutes, stir again to re-mix the now dissolved yeast and leave for 10 minutes until frothy and active. If the yeast doesn't become frothy and active, it is likely to be dead… In which case throw away and start again.
Dry Mix (flours etc)
- Weigh and thoroughly mix together all the ingredients listed under 'Dry Mix' and set aside. TIP: weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously.
- Weigh ALL the ingredients listed under 'Wet Ingredients 1' into a large mixing bowl.
- Beat together with a wooden spoon or dough hook until blended.
- When blended, add the activated yeast mixture, lemon juice and cream cheese and beat again.
Mixing the dough
- Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and blend it all together using an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment until the batter is even in appearance. Scrape down the bowl after a minute or so to ensure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- The batter will look loose and runny initially. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to start the hydration process.
- After 15 to 20 minutes, beat the (now thickened) mix again with the dough hook until even. The mixture should look like over-thick porridge that is starting to hold its shape. If it isn't thick, leave to stand for a little longer, then beat again.
Adding the Fruit
- Add the soaked fruit to the bowl and USING A MIXING SPOON/SPATULA, fold through until the fruit is evenly distributed.
Shaping the Stollen and adding the Marzipan
- Lay down a sheet of baking paper on which to shape the Stollen and smear a light coat of olive oil across the central surface.
- Transfer the dough onto the baking paper and with lightly oiled hands, press and shape the mixture into a rough rectangle about 23 cm (9 inches) by about 18 cm (7 inches).
- Take the marzipan and roll it into a log shape, almost the width of the rectangle.
- Press the marzipan log into the dough, slightly off centre to the right.
- Using the baking paper to help, lift and fold the dough over the top from the right side so that it is snug over the marzipan log.
- Then fold the left side of the dough over the top (again, using the baking paper to help).
- Pinch the ends of the dough log together to seal.
- Using the outside edge of a lightly oiled hand, press down along the length of the right side of the dough (just off centre) to create a deep dent and then gently push together from both sides so that the dip accentuates as an open fold.
- With the dough Stollen still on the baking paper, transfer to a baking tray and trim away any excess baking paper that overhangs the tray.
- Use a tea strainer to sieve a very light dusting of tapioca starch over the dough surface and gently smear across with the back of a spoon.
Proof and Bake
- Proof the Stollen in a warm place for about 35 to 40 minutes (it will only rise slightly). If the kitchen is cold, pre-warm the oven to 50 to 60 C, then place a bowl of boiling water in the bottom, turn off the oven and place the stollen inside (on a thick cloth) to proof.
- If the Stollen has been proofed in the oven, remove at about 30 minutes. Then preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.
- While the oven is pre-heating place a heat-proof dish in the bottom and boil a kettle.
- Just before placing the Stollen to bake, pour boiling water into the bowl so that it adds steam to the oven, then bring the oven back to temperature.
- Bake the Stollen at 200 C/400 F for 10 minutes uncovered, then TURN DOWN the oven to 180 C/350 F, REMOVE the water dish and continue to bake for a further 25 minutes, covering the Stollen LOOSELY with foil.
- Remove the foil and bake for a final 5 minutes or so until golden. When baked, the Stollen crust should feel a little springy and the surface may be a little cracked. Alternatively, check the internal temperature, which should be around 91 to 93 C (195 to 199F).
Rum Butter Coating and Icing Sugar
- Melt the last portion of butter and mix with the rum.
- While the Stollen is still hot, prick it all over the surface with a cocktail stick or spiked cake tester (lots of prick holes).
- Immediately brush with the melted rum butter allowing it to soak in through the holes.
- Liberally sprinkle the buttered Stollen with icing sugar (powdered sugar) and rub it into the melted butter surface with the back of a spoon (being sure to get into the crease and down the sides).
- Cover the Stollen with foil (still on the tray), moulding it tightly around the bread and set aside to cool.
- Once cool, remove the foil and dust again with icing sugar (powdered sugar) to look like snow. It's super-delicious while still very gently warm!
- Once cold, any leftover Stollen should be wrapped tightly in foil and kept at room temperature.
© 2019-2024 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist