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The story goes that the Catholics were not allowed to have any butter or milk during Advent and could only use oil. The cakes they tried to make during this time were tasteless and hard. Prince Elector Ernst von Sachsen and his brother Albrecht wrote to the pope to ask for permission to use butter. Their requests were denied until 1490, when Pope Innocent VIII wrote a letter known as the "Butter Letter" granting permission to use butter. Originally, only the royal family was allowed to use butter for free. Others had to pay 1/20th of a gold Gulden each year. The ban on butter was finally lifted when Saxony became Protestant. This is similar to the Dutch Kerststol and the Italian Pannetone. Prep time does not include rising.
- 1 kg flour
- 100 g fresh yeast, in cubes (or 2 teaspoons active, dried yeast)
- 400 ml whole milk, lukewarm (around 80 degrees F)
- 75 -100 g sugar (to taste)
- one vanilla bean
- 2 eggs
- grated peel of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 400 g butter
- 200 g flour
- 350 g raisins (or mix of raisins and dried black currants)
- 100 g blanched chopped almonds
- 50 g candied diced citron
- 100 g candied diced orange peel
- 4 -5 cl rum (that's about two shots worth)
- 150 g butter
- 150 g powdered sugar
- Soak the raisins, black currants, almonds, candied citron, and orange peel in the rum. Set aside.
- Get a large bowl, the largest bowl you have. Measure and sift the flour into the bowl.
- Dissolve the yeast in 400ml warm milk.
- Make a well in the center of the flour. Add a pinch of salt to the yeast mixture, stir, then pour the yeast into the well.
- Form into a very dry dough and allow it to rise for 10-15 minutes.
- Cut the vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the vanilla seeds. Add the sugar to the seeds, then add the zested lemon peel, salt, and eggs. Beat together and (once the 15 minute rise is done) knead into the dough.
- Allow the dough to rise another 15 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, knead the remaining 200g of flour into the butter.
- Once the rise is finished, knead the butter into the dough. Allow to rise another 15 minutes.
- Once the rise is finished, preheat the oven to 390°F.
- Quickly work the rum-soaked fruit and nuts into the dough until they are evenly distributed.
- Form the dough into two 30cm (about 1 foot) long loaves. Traditionally, the middle is thicker than the sides. Place the dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 20 minutes).
- Bake the loaves for about an hour (you may need to rotate the loaves halfway through). The bread is done when a toothpick comes out clean.
- Coat the bread with the melted butter, then, using a sieve, dust with powdered sugar.
- Allow to cool, then slice.