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Stollen time - Western Canada's Best?

My favourite Christmas season sweet bread (besides the occasional Panettone). My idea of a good stollen means it's fairly dense and buttery with a bit of homemade candied peel and usually raisins or currants (sometimes slightly dry) with a nice eye of real almond paste but not necessarily pure almond paste.
There are many authentic versions in Germany but this is the one you see most often in N. America. Bad versions are more like a spice bread and the almond paste is mainly icing sugar with almond flavouring. Or the those cheap versions, covered in icing sugar and sold in delis, that have been made months ago...

In Vancouver there has been one clear winner for the last couple of years (IMHO) - Thomas Haas, great ingredients and technique and you pay for it. Haven't tried this year's batch yet but by early next week I'll be on my first.

Whole Foods was sampling their housemade version today and it's pretty poor. It's more of a spice bread than a Stollen. Costco was selling a version last year made by Pohl's bakery that was not bad at all for the price.

In Edmonton La Favourite made a pretty good one but there must be some newcomers (Duchess perhaps?) as well as Calgary.

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  1. The best stollen is my mum's :-). But failing that, how about Patisserie Lebeau?

    1. Last year Rise Bakery was selling Stollen - and it was wonderful! Just how you described with the almond paste and currants. I asked them yesterday when they would start selling it again and they said around December 7th (but I think only at their Bow Valley location - only open Mon-Fri during the day).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Wasabilover

        Had some Stollen from Rise today (the Bow Valley Square location). Really good!

      2. I've been partial over the last several years to the stollen at Manuel Latruwe. Not cheap, but excellent ingredients and I like the almond paste in it.

        Looking forward to seeing other Calgary locations. I'll have to try Rise in a couple weeks.

        1. Barring my own, which is AWESOME!!!!, La Boulangerie in the Sutton Place Hotel puts out a really nice one. It's Wolfgang's German recipe (he used to be the pastry chef there but was promoted to F & B Manager).

          1. Will give an honourary mention to the Sutton Place in Edmonton, and third place to the Chateau Lake Louise. But first place, by a country mile is Traegar's Bakery (suitably German) in Saskatoon. The fruit has a nice hint of brandy, the dough is suitably spicy but it is the marzipan laced throughout that sets it way above anything else. It is so good that whenever my Mom comes at Christmas she brings it in her carry-on luggage for fear it might go astray.

            Seriously, if you know anyone who lives in the City of Bridges get them to get you one, and soon as they make a limited amount.

            1. Bernie's Bavarian Bakery in Cochrane, AB makes a delicious, traditional Stollen -- spiced, moist bread full of raisins and bits of fruits, with a sprinkling of icing sugar over top. I don't believe that there's any almond paste on Bernie's stollen, but to be honest, it doesn't need it! It's been a while since I've had it, but I know he's started making it for this Christmas because my parents just bought a loaf! (As a plus, all of Bernie's baking is organic and much of it is wheat-free (not gluten-free, though).)

              136 Railway Street West, Cochrane, AB, T4C 2B5
              403-932-9066

              1. We love love the stollen at Choices Markets. We buy it every year and it is consistently delicious! You can really taste the butter (they use real butter!), a slight rum taste, raisins and almonds...mmmm....I will have to check if they are selling it yet because now I am craving it....

                1. Terra Breads' Stollen and Chocolate and Cherry Panettone...

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: lunchslut

                    I noticed Mix in Vancouver has stollen (it was written up on another board) and it has the requisite booze soaked fruit. Could be worth a try...

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Looks like there needs to be a taste test of Terra and Mix. I'm on my second Thomas Haas Stollen (large size!) but really should take a couple for the team.

                      Wonder if Four Seasons is still making theirs? It was very good and quite similar to Haas with the exception of dark raisins instead of the golden ones.

                      1. re: eatrustic

                        Well I did take one for the team and coughed up $14. for the Terra Stollen. Let's just say that's $14. I won't see again.
                        It's ok but more of a bread than a real stollen with icing sugar on the outside instead of the sanding sugar Haas uses and if it goes in plastic the sugar melts.
                        Although the Thomas Haas is $10. more for a slightly larger version it's money well spent as the quality is there. Each batch is slightly different and the latest one I bought was darker on the outside but really moist inside and is delicious!

                        I see that 49th Parallel is selling slices of the Pohl's Bakery Stollen and they look pretty good as well.

                        1. re: eatrustic

                          Thanks for that eatrustic. I only buy savoury breads from Terra -- never been a fan of any of their sweet stuff. Was sorely tempted by P Le Beau's stollen on Friday but we are still working our way through the 44 lbs (!) of baked goods sent by MIL.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Oh, I didn't realize Le Beau does Stollen. Like Terra he's covering all the bases...Panettone etc.
                            Wonder how they are or if he samples them.
                            In any case it's all in the history books after tomorrow.
                            I

                            1. re: eatrustic

                              I mentioned the PLB stollen way back in the first reply, but I still haven't tried it. Maybe next year :-)

                              1. re: grayelf

                                And speaking of Patisserie LeBeau (veering slightly OT), my brother tried their pannetone this year and was impressed. Not sure if it is "authentic" but he loved the chocolate chunks buried therein :-).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Virtually all the commercial Pannetones made in Vancouver are the yeasted variety - Terra, Le Beau, etc. As such they are tasty but nothing like a true Pannetone made with a special sourdough starter and technique that gives them that moist and airy crumb and fantastic keeping ability.

                                  That makes two things Vancouver is sadly lacking: great pizza and real Pannetones.

                                  1. re: eatrustic

                                    Good info, eatrustic -- I don't know from pannetones!

                          2. re: eatrustic

                            Sorry that you felt that the Terra Breads version was not in the league. I will have to try the much raved about Thomas Haas version that seems to be the clear favourite.

                            1. re: lunchslut

                              I tried the Thomas Haas stollen last week and it was the most delicious I have ever tried so thanks for the rec. The one from choices is good but much sweeter (more powder sugar). At first I thought the choices was better but then we did a taste test side by side and TH was clearly much better:)....

                          3. re: eatrustic

                            Since I was downtown yesterday I stopped by The Four Seasons to see if they still made their Stollens and if they were still available after Christmas and they were.

                            You have to go to the restaurant and order them at the host station. They are $22. which I figured was not too bad considering that the Haas version is $25. Wrong!
                            This is actually the smaller version so not a good deal by any standard. Still, I figured it was worth one last trial before closing the book for this year to see if the quality or style had changed from previous years.

                            I found out one important fact (from an attribution standpoint). I had always thought that one of Thomas Hass' bakers had gone to the Four Seasons and "shared" the recipe since it is so similar. Not at all. It seems that the Four Seasons baker Gerhart has always made this Stollen and it is Thomas Haas who has borrowed the recipe. (Gerhart is now retired but he pops in every Christmas to make a batch for the Four Seasons)
                            I did a taste test this morning and it is very similar but there is a stronger flavour of cardamom in the Four Season's version. Cardamon is a classic spice in stollen recipes. In any case it is still an excellent product.

                            I'm off to Edmonton so I might stop by La Favourite to try one of their stollens again if they have any left.

                            1. re: eatrustic

                              Anyone know if the proprietor(s) of Halso Konditori (formerly on Arbutus at 11th) ever started something new and different ?

                      2. It's stollen time again. Who makes a good stollen in town?

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: fmed

                          Does cho pain on davie male stollen?

                          1. re: betterthanbourdain

                            I just checked their website (painful). There is a picture of stollen in one of the galleries there.

                            1. re: fmed

                              The Baker's Market is advertising Stollen as being available-note new location

                              http://www.bakersmarket.com/

                              1. re: Sam Salmon

                                LOL I just came on here to post about that Sam as I am thinking of checking out the Bakers' Market this Sat!

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  I saw at least two stollen offerings at today's Bakers' Market but did not purchase. I believe Dec 11 is the last one this year if you want to check it out.

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    I picked up one from there (not Stuart's since the people there didn't seem to know anything about the stollen at all), and another from the German Christmas Market. I haven't tried either -- I think I'm going to wait until I've amassed 5-6 and do a bit of a comparison.

                                    1. re: farman

                                      You will take pictures? ("Yes!")

                                      1. re: farman

                                        Giovanne at the fairmont had stollen available. The Thomas haas stollen was good.

                                        1. re: betterthanbourdain

                                          @farman: mini stollen 'down? :-)

                                          @btb: I bet Giovane's stollen would be good. Nice find.

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            Yes most definitely. We need a stollenoff! One is in the works - are you going to make your mom's?

                                2. re: fmed

                                  Kurt from cho pain used to work at 4 Seasons as one of the pastry chef. My money is on Thomas Haas.
                                  Would love to hear eatrustic's opinion on the matter. esp with choices on the baker's market.

                              2. re: fmed

                                We need to have a stollen-off!

                                I'm working on having some either shipped or hand delivered by a flight attendant friend from Waterloo (which is home to a huge German population). My friends out there have a particular favourite which is quite tasty.

                                Also, I'm looking at taking the Stollen (and Gingerbread House) class next week at the Pastry Training Center (http://www.vancouverpastryschool.com). I've enjoyed the 1.5 of the bread baking classes I've taken there so far.

                                I've also got two different Peter Reinhart Stollen recipes (one with a sourdough starter from Artisan Breads Everyday, one more traditional from Bread Baker's Apprentice) that I've been itching to try.

                                Does the German Christmas Market in town have any?

                              3. VCC downtown campus bakery department make very good Stollen and they sell a whole piece of cake for less then 10 bucks!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: GoldenGreatWall

                                  I can see how VCC would make a good Stollen as they have a number of German instructors. Definitely worth checking out.

                                  I've also been working my way through the two Stollens made by Artisan Bakery that I bought at the German Christmas Market. They are excellent! They make two versions in many sizes: one is marzipan and one is rum although it seems that the only difference is one has no marzipan eye in the middle.
                                  I haven't bought my annual Thomas Haas Stollen yet but if memory serves me correctly these are a touch less sweet. They are also labelled as being organic.
                                  As well the medium and the small loaf I bought totaled $26. which was the price (last year) of one Thomas Haas Stollen. I'll verify the size/price/taste difference when I pick one up this week.

                                  Thanks to fmed for hauling this thread out of the archives!

                                  1. re: eatrustic

                                    maybe the $5 entry fee to the german xmas market is gonna be worthwhile after all. eatrustic is the artisan stollen as good or better than the thomas haas one?

                                    VCC does have some really good recipe's through the years from all the chef that has come through the school. i believe ian smith(english) is the chef for the the bakery last I heard. but with VCC there is gonna be consistentcy issues. imho, its gonna be slightly different everytime. but the price is right!

                                    1. re: betterthanbourdain

                                      Yes, the Artisan stollen is almost as good as T.Haas. I still need to do a side by side to see how close they are. More on that in a day or so.

                                    2. re: eatrustic

                                      I picked up my annual Stollen from Thomas Haas as well as a rare Stollen from the incredible Fol Epis bakery in Victoria to add to the Artisan version I already had on hand. (what I love about Stollen is they keep really well so even though I have three on hand they'll be good to eat for a couple of weeks!).

                                      In the picture below the first Stollen is the Artisan version. The middle is Thomas Haas and the bottom is Fol Epis. Both the Artisan and Fol Epis versions are organic.

                                      The Artisan Stollen has the classic shape which is a sort of triangle. This is based on the Catholic Holy Trinity, thus the three rounded areas. Up until last year the Thomas Haas Stollen had this shape and it's a bit disappointing that it looks the way it does (especially with the gap in the middle - this is the purist speaking!).

                                      Both the Artisan and Thomas Haas Stollens are quite similar in flavour although the T. Haas is a bit richer. I have to give the edge to the Artisan as it is organic and I think a bit cheaper. The Thomas Haas on the other hand is delicious and you can get a fancy gift bag if that's important (Large size is $26).

                                      The Fol Epis version ($26.) is in a category all it's own, completely organic and made with flour milled right in the bakery. You can see it's a bit darker in colour and is slightly more rustic in texture but it is equally as delicious as the other two, highly recommended if you can make it over to Victoria -along with the best Panettone this side of Italy.

                                       
                                      1. re: eatrustic

                                        Both the Thomas Haas and the Artisan Stollens are available at Capers (I would assume Whole Foods as well but can't guarantee).
                                        The Artisan come in 3 sizes and the larger one sells for $20., the Thomas Haas sells for $29 with a 100gram weight difference between the two...

                                  2. Never really thought about stollen before, always seemed a little dry, but I sampled a piece this morning at Thomas Haas and indeed, a tasty treat (worthy of pinching a second piece when they weren't looking>>rationale: no marzipan in the first piece). Can't remember the exact price but it seemed a touch pricey.
                                    I'm intrigued by the thought of making my own, but I bet that won't save much by the time I've bought all the fruit/nuts. Might be fun though, must mosey over to Homecooking to see it if there's a thread on it.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: waver

                                      T haas has two sizes. Sm 16 lg 25 iirc.

                                      1. re: waver

                                        I'm sure there will be something over there, waver, but if you want a really great stollen recipe, drop me an email and I'll give you mum's. Not uber pricey but a bit fussy what with the presoaking of the dried fruit, the rolling in of the marzipan (which I will have to source as I usually get it at Parthenon, sob) and the general bread making fandango :-)

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          A few chowhounders got together for the second annual Stollen-off where we sampled our way through close to 15 Stollens acquired from across Canada. The majority were supplied by our gracious host Farman with the rest of the gang each bringing bringing one or two local versions.

                                          The quality ranged from delicious to mediocre (way too many) to downright nasty - one picked up from a restaurant back East was downright cheesy smelling!

                                          To touch on the local versions: Hotels were well represented with samples from Four Seasons, Hotel Vancouver and Sutton Place Hotel. Of these three the Four Seasons was the class of the group by far.
                                          The Sutton Place had the look of an amateur's first try and although decent tasting was not what we looked for in a real Stollen.
                                          The Hotel Vancouver version which seems like a special request item and is not that easy to get was the biggest of the bunch but was kind of bland and a bit bready.

                                          In the local category we tried Artisan, Ploeger's Deli, Thomas Haas and from Victoria Fol Epis.
                                          Once again the class of the group was Thomas Haas. The Artisan which was one of my top picks last year was just too dry and may have been from one of their earlier batches. I'd give them another try if I knew it had been made in the last week or two.

                                          Ploeger's Deli in Kits make's two varieties - one with the Marzipan inside and one without. We tasted the marzipan version and sadly it was a pass. I had previously tasted their plain version and it was much better so not sure why they didn't do the same recipe for both.

                                          Fol Epis, as mentioned last year, is in a category of it's own being more rustic but it was well liked by most who tasted it.

                                          To sum up: It was a tie for Thomas Haas and Four Seasons as they are virtually the same recipe with some minor differences. These are both on the richer, cakier side than the fruit bread side that many Germans prefer but they are so nice as a special treat!

                                          Thomas Haas gives more for the money and is easier to find.
                                          The Four Seasons also makes a version with cherries which I plan to try.

                                          1. re: eatrustic

                                            Good to hear Fol Epis gets a thumbs up - we'll be gathering our provisions in Victoria before we retreat to an island cabin for the holiday. Fol Epi will be a must-stop for us.

                                            1. re: kinnickinnik

                                              Nice recap, eatrustic. I gave a slight edge to the Four Seasons loaf but would likely nab T. Haas as the difference was slight and as you noted, it is more convenient!

                                              kinnick, be sure to get your mitts on a panettone from Fol Epis. eatrustic brought one along just for shits and giggles and it was ironically the taste of the night for everyone. It is really outstanding, far outshining any of the imported panettones any of us had tried.

                                              1. re: kinnickinnik

                                                The Fol Epi panettone stole the show. Really really good.

                                                1. re: fmed

                                                  +1 for the Fol Epi panettone.

                                                  I bought some while visiting family on the island. Everyone was really impressed with it. Only problem? I didn't buy enough!

                                                  1. re: fmed

                                                    The SO and I treated ourselves to a large one to take to the cabin we rented over the holidays - absolutely superb. High quality ingredients, very rich and buttery, and very fragrant with the eaux du vie and orange flower water. We nibbled away at it for several days then turned the rest into spectacular french toast.

                                                    Along with the panettone and bread we bough, we picked up a couple of sausage rolls - among the best sausage rolls we've ever had!

                                                    Thanks so much for the recommendation!

                                                2. re: eatrustic

                                                  I received a Four Seasons Cherry Stollen on Christmas eve as a gift and it was a nice way to wrap up my stollen eating for another year. This version only has kirsch soaked cherries in the dough (along with the marizipan eye of course).
                                                  It was a nice change from the usual raisin-based versions and great for those who really don't like raisins.

                                                  Oddly, they had gone cute and dyed the marzipan a pale green to contrast with the cherries but I would have been just as happy with the natural colour as I actually thought there was something wrong with it when I first cut into it :0.

                                                  Taste'-wise, very good with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I still prefer the reg version but it's nice to have the variety.

                                            2. The best stollen definitely does not come from Cho Pain. Maybe it's due to my inexperience with the German treat, but I was expecting spice, nuts, more raisins, less candied fruit, and a sizeable tunnel of almond paste. Instead I got dry bread with candied fruit, some dark raisins, and marzipan barely the diameter of a nickel.

                                              I tried to salvage it by making it into a $15 bread pudding, but even Avalon egg nog in place of milk couldn't save it.

                                              1. A quiet (for me) stollen season with only two versions making it home and they were the classics - T Haas and Four Seasons.

                                                Thomsas Haas still is very good but it seemed a bit bland this year (perhaps dumbing down the spice to not offend?) They also look more and more like they were fired off an assembly line with that nice artisan shaping from a few years ago now long gone as they pump out the numbers - and they fly off the shelves so who's to fault their logic at $27 for the large?

                                                Just got my hands on a couple of the Four Season's stollens and they really are the class of the field. They taste better and the slices are beautiful with perfectly textured almond paste in the middle. Every year they bring back the retired old baker who has always made them and he never disappoints!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: eatrustic

                                                  Yeah I was a bit disappointed in the Thomas Haas stollen I had this year. I didn't get one from Four Seasons but sounds like I should have!