What’s the difference between panettone and stollen?

I received several questions to that effect last week — oh and…I hope everyone out there had a terrific Christmas and a not-too-painful post-New Year’s hangover. My speculation is that most of the people who asked this question own Peter Reinhart’s excellent book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, for in it the panettone and stollen both employ the same dough, the main difference being that the stollen has twice the fruit plus marzipan.

Much as I respect and admire Peter Reinhart, I’m not down with his implicit assertion that panettone and stollen are the same thing under the hood. Reminds me of the time my uncle claimed that his new $25,000 Toyota was exactly the same thing as a $50,000 Lexus. Sure it had a dissimilar appearance and handled completely differently, but inside all the important parts were identical. Call me skeptical.

It’s true that panettone and stollen are both types of European fruitcake. It’s also true that both have their origins in the butter- and egg- enriched breads of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Still I have a problem treating them as identical, as though the cuisines of Milan and Vienna are basically the same except for all the gorgonzola (those who are about to raise the point that there’s no difference between cotoletta alla milanese and Wienerschnitzel will kindly now shut up).

For my part I think of panettone as being a much lighter thing than stollen, the latter being not only heavier in fruit but also heavier in crumb, with quite a bit more butter and, especially, egg yolk. A panettone that’s as rich as most German stollen would never rise to its expected heights. A stollen that’s as light as a panettone would never cut the proverbial mustard in Dresden. So while I absolutely respect PR’s instinct to simplify processes for the commercial bakers and home bakers alike, I categorically reject the notion that the doughs for panettone and stollen are interchangeable. No offense, Peter!

15 thoughts on “What’s the difference between panettone and stollen?”

  1. Hi Joe
    Wish you and Mrs the best year, I baked the pannetone for New Year’s eve, sliced, roasted and serve with foie gras, it was DDDDDDDDelicious, thanks again.

  2. Yeah, so glad you are posting again! Happy New Year’s!

    I made 8 Panettone – 7 gifts and 1 we ate as I’d never had one that wasn’t of the stale variety. This was two double batches in the electric oven that came with the house. I used only dried fruits I wanted to encounter (no red or green glossy things).

    My critique of my own bread is that I got a very good rise (used some SAF yeast in addition to my starter) and texture. I think my oven was too hot as there was quite a thick crust. I found it to be pretty stale after two days, but maybe that’s why my friend declared my laying hens obese yesterday.

    1. It’s good to be back, Connie! I bet your friends and neighbors were pretty darn happy with the gifts! You’re right that panettone will be dryer after two days, though truth be told a little dryness is part of the aesthetic. However it makes amazing toast regardless. Thanks for checking in for the new year!

      – Joe

  3. Good to have you back, Joe! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to bake any panettone this year (cramming for MCAT), but next holiday season when everything’s free and easy, I’m definitely using your recipe and tutorials 🙂

    1. You’re giving up pastry for medicine??? Ann, Ann…where are your priorities?

      But thanks…it’s nice to be back!

      – Joe

  4. Ha ha… we must have the same uncle. Mine says the same kinds of things. He even uses the words “Wonder” and “bread” in the same sentence. Ha ha. Happy New Year to all!

  5. How to keep your stollen (or pannetone) fresh first slice to last: Slice when bread has had a chance to reach room temperature. Slice entire loaf, freeze what you don’t use right away. Toast directly from freezer, thaw naturally, or a few seconds in the microwave. That last slice in February is every bit as good as the first slice on Christmas day.

  6. Hi Joe, I agree completely that panettone and stollen are two different things, and am amazed that anyone would think otherwise. Stollen is so dense and cakey in comparison to panettone. There’s also a distinct (and to me, unappealing) flavour in stollen that I’ve never been able to figure out, whereas I can happily tuck into slice after slice of panettone (and pandoro and kulitch and colomba, etc., etc.) 🙂

    1. I wonder if it’s the marzipan you’re reacting to. I myself had a problem with marzipan…for years! Then I made some and realized how great it can be. But I still prefer it as an ingredient, not as an end in itself.

      Anyway, I don’t blame PR too much for conflating the two. Commercial bakeries, for reasons of cost and expedience, frequently use the same dough for different applications. Though lots and lots of home bakers buy his books, Peter’s real audience is the retail baking industry, where he is extremely influential. Indeed it is probably thanks to him that there are any American bakeries out there making panettone from natural starters these days. He’s a man who’s done a lot for artisan baking, and if he’s not spot-on when it comes to German stollen, well…it really ain’t no thang.

      Thanks for the email!

      – Joe

  7. Having just finished some of the PR panettone with the memory of homemade stollen still fresh in my mind, I emphatically agree that they are completely different animals.

    For those who want to consider doing stollen next year, there is nothing to compare with Hans Röckewagner’s Dresdener stollen. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/dining/161arex.html?_r=1&ref=dining He does not add marzipan. Neither does he do the traditional asymmetrical fold. Of course, it’s no thing to include the fold. I do. And while you’re doing that it wouldn’t be any thing, either, to stick in some marzipan. I don’t; I find the flavor of the hydrated almond more than enough for this wonderfully tasty and festive bread.

    I ran the recipe by some German and Austrian friends. They agreed that marzipan was not authentic. They were also very iffy about the ginger that Röckenwagner uses. There’s no way, authentic or not I’d ever delete that. It’s a wonderful addition to the fruit and the sugar coating. BTW, the snap of that coating when you take your first bite is bliss.

  8. We are going to make some with your recipe (http://joepastry.com/2008/how_to_make_stollen/)
    as soon as we finish the last real German stollen we got from the World Market during their after Christmas sale..

    Mrs. says the Italian panettone won’t compare to the German stollen. I haven’t eaten panettone that I know of or remember so I will take you two’s word for that.

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