WHAT IS CHRISTMAS BREAD?
Several countries have variations on this theme but Germany with Christmas stollen and Norway with Julekake are the most well known. This recipe is a popular holiday alternative to fruitcake. In general oats, butter and egg are mixed with zest and candied fruits and baked. Historically in the city of Dresden for example each loaf weighed 30 lbs (13.6 kg) when served! In many versions the cake is aged for several weeks after baking. This both allows it dry out as well as to develop more flavor.
WHERE IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS BREAD MADE?
Each European and Scandinavian region has their own version so it really comes down to what style of cuisine you most prefer.
WHAT KIND OF FLOUR AND STARTER SHOULD I USE?
A sourdough starter is recommended along with traditional bread flour.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTMAS BREAD BE STORED?
These traveling cakes are already designed to have a long shelf life at room temperature. The use of dried fruit makes freezing them a bit problematic. And refrigerating them is a bad idea since this will introduce moisture into your dry cake. Your best bet is to keep them in a dark, dry place for several weeks. You can re-heat them before serving to bring some life back into them though it will dry them out if overdone.
WAS GERMAN CHRISTMAS CAKE ORIGINALLY MADE FOR PEOPLE WHO WERE FASTING?
As strange as this sounds, yes. The Pope had decreed that during a time of fasting (Advent) butter was not allowed to be used in baking. This resulting in ingredient substitutions in Saxony like turnip oil which gave the cakes a less then delicious flavor. The Pope agreed to allow individuals to cook with butter at this time but only if they paid a fine. Saxony later became Protestant eliminating the ban in full.