VIENNNA, W.Va. -- His last name is synonymous with the fine Swiss chocolate business his father started in Parkersburg, but Dominique Holl remembers the many fine holiday meals his pastry chef father created for the family. At Christmas, Fritz Holl's German heritage showed in the stollen he baked for family and friends
Stollen is a German loaf-shaped sweet bread containing dried fruit and nuts and covered in powdered sugar or icing. Called Christstollen at Christmas time, the loaves typically have an indentation that represents the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.
For more than 10 years, Holl's Chocolates have offered loaves of stollen for sale during the holidays. In the beginning, Fritz Holl oversaw the production of the marzipan-stuffed loaves that were baked from his recipe. Chocolate makers take a break from truffle production in the summer when business is typically slow to bake the breads, which are wrapped and frozen for holiday sales.
Fritz taught Brian Gray how to make stollen in 2000, eventually entrusting him to take over production entirely. Fritz died in June, making the baking session a bit poignant this year.
"We're just glad he taught us," Holl said.
At first, they made just a few loaves, mostly for customers with German roots who favored the holiday bread. As word spread and their stollen's popularity grew, they've made more every year, usually selling out just before Christmas. Holl's produced 400 loaves this year, which are available in Holl's Chocolate Store on Bridge Road and in the Capitol Market, 800 Smith St. The 2-pound loaves sell for $20.
Gray makes the stollen the same way Fritz taught him. He proofs yeast in warm milk and a little sugar and then mixes in melted butter. He adds raisins, sultana raisins, citron, almonds and other dried fruits that have soaked in rum. He adds the flour while mixing the other ingredients in a large mixer to form a stiff dough.
After shaping the dough into circles, he places a ribbon of marzipan, or sweet almond paste, down one side, then folds one side over the top. And pushes down on the middle to form the traditional indentation.
"Mr. Holl always said not to skimp on the marzipan," Gray said. Holl's makes the marzipan, but it can be purchased with other baking supplies in grocery stores.
After the loaves rise, he bakes them in a 325-degree oven. While they're still hot from the oven, Gray brushes melted butter over the loaves with butter, then dusts them with a heavy coating of powdered sugar.
Once cooled, the loaves are double wrapped in plastic, then bagged and frozen.
"Stollen really improves with freezing," Holl said. "The flavors blend together. We recommend that people thaw them, then pop them in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes or so before serving."
Gray follows Fritz Holl's recipes for the fairly uncomplicated bread, and he said most home bakers would be able to produce something similar. Holl said the recipe printed below is similar to his father's, except for the addition of eggs.
Holl's stollen is also available on-line at www.holls.com. Call 800-842-4512.
Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Baker, another West Virginia stollen baker, sells a version of the seasonal treat for $24.95. Visit www.wvbakery.com or call 304-876-2432.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Stollen1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
1 large egg