Stollen: A Tasteful German Fruitcake
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Perhaps the best-known culinary tradition of the American Christmas is the fruitcake. The dense, sugary bread crammed with candied fruits is the gift you love to hate. Humorist Dave Barry once quipped that fruitcakes make ideal gifts because the Postal Service has been unable to find a way to damage them. Reporter Chris Elliott discovered an alternative at a small German bakery in central Florida.
CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT reporting:
To the untrained eye, stollen looks like a small loaf of bread covered in sugar. But even to the untrained palate, there is not mistaking this German holiday bread for fruitcake.
Mr. HERNAND PADILLA(ph) (Bakery Customer): It's good.
C. ELLIOTT: Hernand Padilla bites into a piece.
Mr. PADILLA: With regular fruitcake, it's lot sweet, you know. They got some kind of a fruit in there, you know. I like it.
C. ELLIOTT: The owner of the Yalaha Country Bakery is Gunter Herold, who emigrated here from Germany more than a decade ago. He's on a mission to convert America's fruitcake skeptics...
Mr. GUNTER HEROLD (Yalaha Country Bakery): Sometimes we get `Is that a fruitcake?' as a question, and it seems to me that they're not very happy about fruitcakes.
C. ELLIOTT: ...one stollen at a time.
Mr. HEROLD: You see the almonds, you see the golden raisins, and they are soaked in rum for a couple of days, and then you have the lemon peel and the orange peel. We call it orangade and citronade. Then you won't see it, but you can smell, the other ingredients like the almond extract and the mace and the cardamom.
(Soundbite of activity at bakery)
C. ELLIOTT: The exotic fruitcake, all two and a half pounds of it, is not inexpensive. The regular stollen is $23.50, and there's one with a quarter-inch marzipan filling that costs $27. Why so expensive? Because they're extremely difficult to make, says one of Yalaha's bakers, Eberhard Rousse(ph). On a scale of one to 10...
Mr. EBERHARD ROUSSE (Baker): It's certainly eight or nine, ya, certainly. It's very hard. I mean, it's a procedure, you have to follow that.
C. ELLIOTT: For example, use the wrong raisins and the bread will be discolored. Forget to turn the oven down during the baking, and the stollen dries out. It takes such skill that the first batch of stollen for the year are often thrown away.
Unidentified Woman: Can I help you?
Unidentified Man: Yes.
Unidentified Woman: What can I do for you?
C. ELLIOTT: But for customers like Ronald Regan(ph), who was buying bread here, it's well worth the trouble.
Mr. RONALD REGAN (Bakery Customer): American fruitcake by and large has too much fruit in it. It becomes nothing but dried fruit with enough batter to hold it together, usually, and this style I prefer very much, with more cake and less fruit.
C. ELLIOTT: So is this the end of the American fruitcake tradition? Probably not. Herold says the treat isn't just hard to make, it's hardly profitable. But he says he'll keep doing it until Christmas, or at least until our fruitcake improves.
For NPR News, I'm Christopher Elliott in Yalaha, Florida.
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