Early Stollen was different with the ingredients of flour, oats and water.
As a Christmas bread, Stollen was baked for the first time at the Council of Trent in 1545, and was made with flour, yeast, oil and water.
The Advent season was a time of fasting, and bakers were not allowed to use butter, only oil, and the cake was tasteless and hard. In the 15th century, in medieval Saxony (in central Germany, north of Bavaria and south of Brandenburg), the Prince Elector Ernst (1441–1486) and his brother Duke Albrecht (1443–1500) decided to remedy this by writing to the Pope in Rome. The Saxon bakers needed to use butter, as oil in Saxony was expensive, hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips.
Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455), in 1450 denied the first appeal. Five popes died before finally, Pope Innocent VIII, (1432–1492) in 1490 sent a letter to the Prince, known as the “Butter-Letter” which granted the use of butter (without having to pay a fine), but only for the Prince-Elector and his family and household.
Others were also permitted to use butter, but on the condition of having to pay annually 1/20th of a gold Gulden to support the building of the Freiberg Minster. The ban on butter was removed when Saxony became Protestant.
Over the centuries, the bread changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless “bread” to a sweeter bread with richer ingredients, such as marzipan, although traditional Stollen is not as sweet, light and airy as the copies made around the world.
Here in is our combined verdict of which Stollen would be rated the highest, out of all the mouthfuls we have tasted and wrote a review. Unfortunately we had sampled a few others before eventually sharing our thought, so these may get an honorary mention at the end.
There was an interesting one, bought in Lidl, that was a ‘Premium’ which was laced with rum.