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NPR Arts & Life

NPR Holiday Leftovers Presents: A 'Stollen' Recipe

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Wait, don't reach for another slab of peppermint bark just yet. We're back with a new holiday recipe from another one of our colleagues here at NPR. Kim Bryant works in the digital media department. Thanks very much for being with us.

KIM BRYANT, BYLINE: My pleasure.

SIMON: You've got a recipe for - and I - there's some controversy over the pronunciation, and I don't want to sound like Colonel Klink when I say it, so go ahead. Yeah?

BRYANT: So my family pronounces it stollen.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. I was going to say stollen.

BRYANT: Yes, that's the High German pronunciation.

SIMON: Oh, all right.

BRYANT: We're Low German.

SIMON: So, like, it's a fruit in the middle of pastry, right?

BRYANT: It's a little more complicated than that. My great-grandmother Wickie came over from Vienna, Austria, with this recipe in her family. It had a lot of citron in it.

SIMON: Citron is - I should know.

BRYANT: It doesn't grow in this country, as far as I know. It is a citrus-type fruit. It doesn't have a very strong citrus taste. Helps keep the bread moist, and that's one of the hardest things about baking this, so...

SIMON: I mean, you pour brandy into it or something, right? Isn't that one way of keeping it a little moist?

BRYANT: Well (laughter), so here's the thing that I change. I hate golden raisins, and I refused to put them in my recipe for years until I started soaking them in Cointreau.

SIMON: You can soak twigs in Cointreau and it would...

BRYANT: In Cointreau and it would be delightful.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, give us some idea how you make your...

BRYANT: Stollen.

SIMON: Thank you.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Sure. So it is the most expensive thing that I bake. You have to order away for dried apricots, candied cherries and orange peel and lots and lots of citron. I add some almond paste, cloves and mace and cinnamon. My secret ingredient is cardamom. You probably won't see that in any other stollen recipe.

SIMON: And the crust, right, the pastry, that's important.

BRYANT: I use bread flour. That's a major change. If you're eating the traditional Viennese, it's probably more like a cake.

SIMON: So you don't have to roll it out the way you would pastry.

BRYANT: No, you are kneading it and it requires a double rise and it is an all-day project.

SIMON: And you get requests for it?

BRYANT: I do. It's sort of polarizing. It's like rhubarb. Either you like it or you don't. I'm not offended if you don't. It is more popular in Europe, I found out, when I lived in Belfast.

SIMON: Are you really going to try and convince me with a straight face that in Belfast, people are saying, hey - I - forgive me - hey, what's this - I can't even do - I can't even do the Irish.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Don't try.

SIMON: And my middle name is Sullivan. I can't do the Irish accent with asking for stollen?

BRYANT: Stollen.

SIMON: OK, yeah.

BRYANT: Yes, and they would call it stollen there. Actually, when I was living in Belfast, my mother shipped me a loaf from home. I brought it into work.

SIMON: Had to be carried in by an ox cart, I should think, right? Yeah.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Right. It does weigh about five pounds when you're done with it. And I brought it into work to share, and one of my co-workers said, well, this is not what I am used to. And he felt compelled to go to Marks and Spencer and buy me a traditional loaf of folded over, highly cake-like stollen. And it was covered with sugar icing.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: It was very, very sweet.

SIMON: OK.

BRYANT: This is not as sweet.

SIMON: Do people ever say to you, this is so - what good is it if it's not sweet? Isn't that the whole idea of a holiday confection?

BRYANT: So there's a famous saying in my family. My great-grandmother was trying to encourage more people, more generations, to make it. So when my grandmother got married in October, one of the first things her husband told her was, well, you're going to make it stollen for Christmas, right? And my grandmother had never heard of this thing before, and she did it anyway. And her mother-in-law said - this is the thing that gets said in my family every year - little bit shvet (ph), little bit sweet, but better than mine.

SIMON: Kim Bryant from NPR's digital media, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: You're welcome.

SIMON: And we will note that Kim's complete recipe appears on the NPR WEEKEND EDITION Facebook page. Thanks very much for being with us, or did I say that?

BRYANT: (Laughter) You did and that's OK. Merry Christmas.

SIMON: And Merry Christmas and happy...

BRYANT: Stollen.

SIMON: Yeah, to you, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.