Bia Sasta's delicious looking home backed stollen.

No fear of this cake getting stollen

Christmas stollen is to the Germans what Christmas fruit cake is to the Irish – most never made one but all have been given it as a gift (shop-bought) and passing it on at the next occasion. 

The same happens with fruit cake (there is a theory around that there is actually only one fruit cake in the world that has been passed from house to house and never been eaten!).

Italy has its pannettone or pandoro (I personally think

pandoro is rather nice) but I have seen boxes of it being passed on throughout December.

But back to the German Christmas stollen. You can buy it in shops but – and I speak out of experience – it is more like a dried sweet bread that had been forgotten in grandma’s cupboard.

I remember a homemade stollen by a talented baker once and the aroma was so natural (not the fake essence used in commercial versions) and citrusy, the fruit so plump and the cake itself rather luscious.

If you have had the commercial stollen in the past and didn’t like it, try it again from a baker – the difference is mind-blogging.

Now, for ‘The Great British Bake Off' final I decided to try my hand on a traditional stollen. It is basically enriched bread dough with fruit in it.

There are easier versions around but I am a stubborn traditionalist so stuck with the original. I understand now why people don’t bake it at home. It takes ages.

First, you have to soak the fruit in orange juice (or booze) overnight. Then you make the basic dough and leave it to rest for two hours. It needs the two hours as the dough is rather heavy and needs the time to rise. It won’t rise to double its size as bread would but it will move.

Then you need to knead the soaked fruit in and that is much trickier than I thought as the liquid of the fruit made the dough rather sticky and almost slimy; keep working it, it will all come together, eventually. Then leave to rise again for two hours.

After that, you need to drape the dough into an oval, press a rolling pin in the middle and fold over one side (the cake looks a bit like there is a big gap in the centre) and bake on a low temperature for an hour.

If you watch the Bake-Off, you will have seen people sitting in front of the oven door to see how their bakes are doing in there – I became one of them. I can’t remember ever sitting in front of the oven door watching my bake.

I was worried it would burn as my oven is a bit temperamental to say the least (worst buy ever). When the cake is ready, it needs to be brushed with melted butter – a lot of it – while still hot and then immediately dusted with icing sugar – a lot of it.

The aroma was beautiful and we wanted to cut it straight away like I would normally do with fresh bread (nothing more indulgent than a slice of still warm bread lathered with butter) but we needed to wait as the structure of the cake would have collapsed.

The result? I wasn’t 100 per cent happy but Mr T ate away on it.

The flavour was excellent although I will use some booze the next time to intensify the aroma a bit.

The texture of the cake itself was beautiful although the crust was a bit too crisp for my liking.

Will I do it again? Absolutely as even an imperfect stollen made at home is still better than the commercial one.

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