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"This is a traditional tart eaten in Naples at Easter," says Ingram. "The legend goes that a mermaid called Parthenope in the Gulf of Napoli would sing to celebrate the arrival of spring each year. One year, to say thank you, the Neapolitans offered her gifts of ricotta, flour, eggs, wheat, perfumed orange flowers and spices. She took them to her kingdom under the sea, where the gods made them into a cake. I love to add nibs of chocolate to Parthenope cake because I think it marries nicely with the candied orange and sultanas, but, really, do you need an excuse to add chocolate to anything?" Start this recipe a day ahead to prepare the pastry and soak the sultanas.
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The mix of candied apple and dried apple combined with a sticky cinnamon glaze provides a new twist on an old favourite. These buns are equally good served warm on the day of baking, or several days later, toasted, with lashings of butter.
This layered dessert is deceptively light, despite the creamy chocolate filling. It would also be beautiful with raspberries scattered over the chocolate creme for a burst of freshness.
Thought to have been created in 14th-century Germany, the first Stollen was characterised by the absence of milk and butter, ensuring its existence as a flavour-free (and fun-free) Christmas bread.
With butter banned as part of December’s Advent fast, the Catholic Church decreed that the ‘Christstollen’ be made with little more than flour, yeast, water and oil.
It was Saxony, whose citizens only had access to unsavoury rape oil, that petitioned the Pope to allow its bakers to use butter. The church relented, for a small, cheeky fee toward the building of the Dresden cathedral.
The Saxons went to work on baking a more cake-like version with eggs, sugar, dried fruit, citrus peel and almonds. The loaf was liberally brushed with melted butter and dusted in icing sugar. This became the famous Dresden Stollen, and other German variations also include a decadent marzipan version.
Arthur's Bavarian Bakehouse
Baker Arthur Stautner started soaking his sultanas in Czech Tuzemsky rum in October for inclusion in his fine Stollen. 9 Duneba Ave, West Gordon, NSW, (02) 9880 2242.
Flour Power Bakehouse
This marzipan Stollen is a big hit with local German and Austrian expats. 107 Gladstone Rd, Highgate Hill, Qld, (07) 3217 2988.
North Beach Bakery & Patisserie
Manfred Bertuch has been turning out his famous Christstollen for more than 30 years: a trad recipe using fresh yeast, Aussie sultanas and an imported German spice mix. Shop 15, 1 North Beach Rd, North Beach, WA, (08) 9448 9980.