This time last year when I was a million months pregnant, I got the wildest craving for Stollen, the yeasted spiced Christmas cake that has a bunch of tasty mix-ins (most notably, marzipan). This craving came out of nowhere because I don’t think I’d even ever had Stollen before?! I guess I wanted all of the warm spices and a cake with not too much sweetness, and, obviously, marzipan. Because, spoiler alert, I am approximately 75% marzipan during the holiday season. But then when I started looking for recipes, I realized I wanted something with a little more instant gratification because I was too impatient to let stuff rise. I also wanted a softer moister denser texture than a yeasted cake could give me. After searching high and low, I came across Dan Lepard’s Stollen bars!! They are a stroke of genius and delivered everything I was looking for: a buttery soft blondie-like consistency, loads of flavor, hidden surprises like chewy dried fruit and toasty pistachios, not too much required in the way of time or energy, and gigantic chunks of marzipan. GIGANTIC CHUNKS OF MARZIPAN!!! They were SO GOOD!!! I made multiple batches and gifted them all over the place. My only challenge was that the recipe was written in British and required a lot of Googling and trial and error to figure out suitable equivalents to “mixed spice” and strong white flour, as well as the meaning of “sultana.” I also ended up throwing in some dried cherries because I’m in a dried cherry phase, and some orange zest and almond extract because they tie all of these flavors together soo nicely.
So here is my version of Dan’s bars and, ugh, I am obsessed with these. I love the earthy understated look. They’re sturdy, reliable, low maintenance (make them ahead! they last for a few weeks!), and all around delicious. The cream cheese in the dough adds a sparkle of tang and melted butter brushed on top combines with a storm of powdered sugar for a wintery rustic alternative to glaze. If colorful frosted sugar cookies are the fancy sequined holiday party dress that you’ve been planning on wearing for months, these bars are the very comfortable jeggings and oversized sweater that you decide to wear at the last minute with absolutely no regrets!