Recipe: Swiss Stollen for Christmas


For Christmas this year, I’ve started making Stollen. This rich yeasted cake originated in Germany, but you can find it in our Suisse romande bakeries and grocery stores (and I assume it’s even more readily available in German-speaking Switzerland).

I adapted a recipe from Croqu’menus—the Swiss cookbook students use in public school classrooms—so it’s dairy-free for my son. The dough is studded with raisins, flaked almonds and candied lemon and orange peel. My favorite part is the log of almond paste that spans the length of the cake.

store window stollen

Swiss Stollen at a local bakery

Dating back centuries, the Stollen’s oval shape supposedly resembles the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. In particular, Dresden, Germany seems to be the international epicenter for this special Christmas cake. For more information about the history of the Stollen, the Food Network has compiled a quick summary.

Marzipan vs. Almond Paste

Stollen recipes vary, but from what I’ve seen, they often contain marzipan. For the first one I made, I used marzipan. Soon after, I came across a very helpful post from The Kitchn comparing marzipan and another similar product, almond paste. Before, I thought these products were the same thing, but when I visited our Swiss grocery stores, I noticed two different products to choose from: marzipan and pâte d’amandes.

My Swiss recipe calls for pâte d’amandes, which I used in my second batch of Stollen, and I thought the consistency was better than marzipan. The pâte d’amandes seemed a little softer and less sweet. I think you can certainly use marzipan, but I prefer the almond paste—even though they only have a slight difference both in taste and appearance.

Stollen de Noël

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 268).

Makes two loaves

150 ml milk substitute (I used soy milk)
20 grams fresh yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
300 grams all-purpose flour (and about an extra 1/4-1/2 cup for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt

Dried fruit and nut mixture:
5 tablespoons raisins (I used golden raisins)
5 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, chopped
1 tablespoon candied orange peel, chopped
2 drops of almond extract (essence d’amandes amères)

100 grams almond paste (pâte d’amandes; marzipan works too if you can’t find almond paste)

50 grams dairy-free margarine
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)


1. Add the fresh yeast to the soy milk and sugar. Let is set for a few minutes and then stir until completely dissolved. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the egg and spoonfuls of the softened dairy-free margarine. Stir together until a soft dough forms.

3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Please note: The dough is very soft and sticky to start, but be patient. Add some flour to prevent sticking, but only a little at a time. Try not to add too much so it stays nice and soft. I even use Paul Hollywood’s dough-throwing method for this recipe, because the dough is difficult to handle at first.

4. When the dough is ready, quick knead in the fruit and nut mixture, along with the almond extract, just until well incorporated throughout the dough. Please note: I find it easier to do this final knead back in the bowl, rather than on a flat surface.

5. Place the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

6. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll each of the two pieces of dough out and make two ovals about 1-inch (3 cm) thick.

7. Divide the almond paste in half, so that each piece weighs about 50 grams. Using your hands, roll the paste into 2 logs measuring a little less than the length of the two ovals. Place them in the center of the ovals. Fold the dough in half, covering the log of almond paste.

8. Cover the loaves in plastic and let rise for another hour or so.


9. Melt the margarine and brush some over the loaves, saving about 2/3 of the margarine for two additional coatings—the second about halfway through the baking process, and the third and final coating brushed on after the loaves are out of the oven, but still warm.

10. After the first coating of margarine is brushed on, bake the loaves at 200°C/400°F for about 20-30 minutes, until the loaves have developed a deep brown color. About halfway through the baking process, give them another coating of margarine.

11. Take the loaves out of the oven, and while still warm, brush the rest of the margarine over them. Let them cool on a wire rack.

12. After the loaves have cooled, mix together the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and coat the loaves generously with this mixture. Store them tightly wrapped in plastic. Tie them with a ribbon for a perfect holiday gift! Best eaten the first day or two after baking.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015! Please check back the week of January 5th for my next post. Joyeuses fêtes, et bonne année!

Save the date: January 27, 2015 – Benefizkonzert der stiftung aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse in Bern


Recipe: Magenbrot – Chocolate Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets in Switzerland, and I hope to visit one soon! To date, I’ve strolled through these festive markets in Montreux, Neuchâtel and Zurich. With a steaming mug of vin chaud in my hands, I have to always stop and admire all the sweet Swiss treats. I still have many to try, but one of my favorites is Magenbrot—small cocoa gingerbreads coated with dark chocolate icing.

Christmas market stall - Zurich

Zurich Christmas Market, December 2013

magenbrot - onion festival

Onion Market in Bern, November 2013

Magenbrot means “stomach bread” in German. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the name developed because the spices and sugar contained in the bread were supposed to aid digestion. Instead of wheat flour, recipes for Magenbrot call for rye flour, which gives the gingerbread a little more texture. You can typically find these at fall festivals in Switzerland, like the Bern Onion Market, and at Christmas markets. Bakeries that make Magenbrot traditionally sell them wrapped in pink paper.


(dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free)

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi.

Dry ingredients:
300 grams rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
125 grams sugar
150 ml rice milk
1 tablespoon kirsch

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.

2. In a separate container, whisk together the wet ingredients and then pour into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll with a floured rolling pin until you have a rectangle, about 2 cm thick. Cut the rectangle into about 5 strips of dough with a sharp knife. Please note: The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a little extra flour to help shape it.

Magenbrot dough

4. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. When still warm, cut into pieces, approximately 2 x 4 cm. Let the pieces continue to cool while you prepare the glaze.

Magenbrot Glaze

100 grams allergy-friendly dark chocolate
20 grams dairy-free margarine
100 ml water
250 grams powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the first three ingredients together, just until the chocolate is melted and well-blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

2. Put the cooled Magenbrot in a large bowl and pour the warm glaze over them. Toss them gently in the glaze until well-coated.

3. Place the Magenbrot on a wire rack to cool and for the glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.


I just froze some homemade Magenbrot so my son can have an allergy-friendly treat during our next visit to a Swiss Christmas market. They’re easy to make and highly addictive!

aha! 2014 Awards and a Giveaway

On Wednesday, October 23, the aha! Allergiezentrum Schweiz (Swiss Allergy Center) held its 2014 awards ceremony at the Bern Stadttheater. I somehow snagged an invitation to this year’s event. The thoughtful staff members at aha! are often fielding my questions via email, and it was such a pleasure getting the chance to meet them all in person. I was also excited to learn about the people and projects receiving awards, as they represent some important new opportunities to increase awareness and improve the quality of life for children and adolescents living with food allergies in Switzerland.

Stadttheater Bern

Bern Stadttheater

Unfortunately for me, all the speeches and presentations during this event were in Swiss German, but I guess that’s to be expected on the other side of the Röstigraben! Thankfully, the French version of the written program and the PowerPoint presentations helped me to follow along. To learn about the award winners, aha! has information on its website in German and French. Three projects shared the grand prize this year, all with a particular focus on peanut allergy and anaphylaxis. Here’s my quick summary of the 2014 grand prize winners:

  • Angelica Dünner: Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie (Peanut Allergy and Anaphylaxis) is a nonprofit organization based in Zurich that provides information for people living with food allergies, which Ms. Dünner helped to create three years ago. In 2014, among other activities, Ms. Dunner obtained permission from Food Allergy Research & Education in the United States to translate into French and German two children’s books about Alexander, an elephant with a peanut allergy. You can purchase these books via the organization’s website. When my 3-year old starts school next year, I’m planning to order a copy for his new classroom. I’ve exchanged emails with Ms. Dünner several times in the last year or two, and I was delighted to finally meet her. Her group is doing important work in Switzerland, so please consider becoming a member today.

  • Dr. Alice Köhli: At the Universitäts-Kinderspital Zürich (University Children’s Hospital) in Zurich, Dr. Köhli is the head of the Allergologie department. She has been working in collaboration with Ms. Dünner to offer food allergy and anaphylaxis training for parents, teachers and other caregivers of children with food allergies. The purpose is to help prevent anaphylaxis and to teach people how to respond to severe allergic reactions, should they occur. To date, these workshops have only been offered in German.

  • Dr. Ferdinanda Pini-Züger: For the Canton of Zurich, Dr. Pini-Züger is the director of the Sektor Schulärztlicher Dienst (School Medical Sector). Also working with Ms. Dünner, Dr. Pini- Züger helped introduce informational sheets for parents and teachers on peanut and tree nuts allergies and anaphylaxis. She also helped to develop a legal agreement between parents and the school district on how to manage food allergies in the classroom, based on existing primary school law. According to aha!, this is the first time informational sheets on food allergies have been prepared by a school district and shared on their website. This project is of great interest to me, and working with aha!, I would like to develop a similar set of materials in French for my son’s school.
aha! awards 2014 2427x2517.40

The view from my seat before the aha! 2014 award ceremony

Congratulations again to the three deserving winners of the aha! 2014 award, and a special thanks to the generous aha! staff members for allowing me to attend the ceremony. I hope these projects can be replicated soon in other regions of Switzerland and in different languages, namely French and Italian. I will continue to follow their progress and share updates in the future.

A Peanut-Free and Tree Nut-Free Giveaway

Giveaway prize 3516x2463

You could win these products! Please read the instructions below.

Since peanut and tree nut allergies were a focus of this year’s aha! awards—and one of the kind organizers of the 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference just sent me a complementary box of allergy-friendly products—I wanted to share some of these treats by trying my first-ever giveaway. Here are the details, if you’re interested in entering:

  • How to enter: Please leave a comment below with the answer to this question—What is your favorite allergy-friendly product?
  • Deadline: Saturday, November 8 at 12:00 PM (Swiss time). I will randomly select a winner and announce their name in a comment below on Monday, November 10.
  • What you win: I will send to you, wherever you are, a box of peanut-free and tree nut-free goodies, including:

Full Disclosure: As I mentioned, I received a complementary box of allergy-friendly products from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference. However, I did not receive any compensation from the Food Allergy Blogger Conference or from any of the product manufacturers listed above, nor I was expected to hold a giveaway via Dairy-Free Switzerland with these products. Any opinions expressed in this or other posts on Dairy-Free Switzerland are solely my own. The King Arthur Flour Golden Flax Meal is my contribution to the giveaway. As always, please read labels carefully to make sure these products do not contain any of your known allergens.

I hope you all had a wonderful (and safe) Halloween and an excellent weekend. Thanks in advance for those of you entering my giveaway, and good luck!

Celebrating Onions in Bern

The smell of onions was in the air yesterday in Bern. I somehow talked two friends into taking an early morning train with me to visit the “Zibelemärit”—an annual onion market that’s one of Switzerland’s oldest fairs. I’m always searching for opportunities to learn about Swiss foods, and the onion market introduced me to some specialties for the autumn/winter seasons. We spent about 1 1/2 hours there, during which we sampled “glühwein” (hot mulled wine), “zwiebelkuchen” (onion tart), brötli (small breads) and more.


Bern’s autumn market dates back to the 15th century, but the focus on onions apparently began in the mid-19th century. It’s always held on the fourth Monday in November, much like Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in the United States. Like Thanksgiving, the Zibelemärit seems to celebrate the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Of course, the Swiss version includes loads of confetti, squeaking plastic hammers and most importantly, a focus on onions (I particularly like author Diccon Bewes’ description of the atmosphere).

While I knew the onion market would draw a huge crowd, I was still surprised by the tremendous number of people there at 6:00 in the morning. At times, my friends and I were walking shoulder-to-shoulder past countless booths of braided onions. In contrast, I talked to several Swiss and non-Swiss folks living in our small French-speaking city who had neither attended, nor even heard of the onion market before.


In the coming weeks, I’ll work on sharing a few Zibelemärit-inspired recipes (sans dairy, raw/undercooked egg and almonds). However, I think it’s nearly impossible to recreate the delicious onion tart full of eggs, cheese and cream. In the meantime, I’ll use the onions I bought in my homemade stuffing and other dishes for our Thanksgiving feast this Thursday. What’s left of our pretty onion braid will serve as our Thanksgiving centerpiece!


For those who celebrate this very American holiday, I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Swiss Bread: Pain Paysan

With a name like “Pain Paysan” (a.k.a. “Peasant Bread”), you could imagine this bread baking in home kitchens for centuries throughout the Swiss countryside.


In reality, a professional school and a Swiss employment association developed Pain Paysan in the 1950s, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. Using a combination of white and rye flour, this new recipe also called for milk, as was a way to use up a surplus commodity.

Over half a century later, it’s clear the marketing strategy worked. You can still find Pain Paysan on grocery store shelves and boulangeries all over Switzerland. I bought a small loaf at our local market for about 2 CHF this week. It’s a good, everyday bread and recommended for sweet (chocolate) or savory (cold cuts and cheese) accompaniments .

My homemade and allergy-friendly version of Pain Paysan contains rice milk. It’s extremely easy to make and has few ingredients. We’ve been eating the bread with jam, and in particular, a delicious homemade “confiture de pruneaux” (plum jam) from a friend.



Bauernbrot / Pain Paysan / Pane del nonno or Pane Paesano

Adapted from the Swiss agricultural information center’s recipe.


375 grams white flour
125 grams rye flour
7 grams active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
200 ml rice milk
150 ml water

1. Whisk together dry ingredients: white and rye flours, yeast and salt. Combine and gently bring the water and rice milk to room temperature.

2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir until a dough forms, and knead until its soft and airy. The dough should gently spring back when pressed. Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Shape the dough into a round loaf and sprinkle with flour. Using a sharp knife, make shallow slices across the top of the loaf to form a grid. Cover and let the dough rise again for about 15 minutes.

4. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes until the loaf is lightly browned. When tapped, the bottom of the bread should sound hollow.


This morning, I made little jam sandwiches with Pain Paysan for the boys’ breakfast. We were on an early train to Bern. It was a crisp and sunny morning in the Swiss capital city. Bon week-end, everyone!

2013-10-18 11.19.44

Bern Weekend Getaway

Traveling with small children can be challenging, and throwing our son’s food allergies into the mix has introduced a whole new level of planning, as we’re finding out. Our recent weekend trip to the Swiss capital of Bern served as a test run for our family, as we’re eager to plan more excursions and explore our new home country. At the same time, I don’t want to introduce unnecessary risk by traveling, so we’re learning how to balance our wanderlust with our need to be practical and safe for the sake of our son.

Finding Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

When traveling, we prefer having our own kitchen to prepare our allergy-friendly meals, but I had difficulty finding an affordable and available option for just two nights in Bern. Instead, we found a great hotel within walking distance of some of the city’s major attractions, such as the BearPark, the Clock Tower, and the House of Parliament. In advance of our arrival, I exchanged emails with the hotel to make sure their restaurant could accommodate my son’s multiple food allergies. They assured me he would have options in their restaurant, so we felt confident having at least one place to eat. I also looked up the nearest grocery stores, so we could find soy milk and fresh fruit, just in case.

We ended up eating all of our meals at the hotel restaurant, except for one, which we had at a restaurant we researched beforehand. My husband had read about a restaurant with a great selection of beers near the BearPark, so we sought shelter from the rain there and had a pleasant lunch. At both restaurants, the staff were all very helpful and understanding. We heard about another vegetarian fast-food restaurant in Bern, but we didn’t get a chance to stop there. This looks like another great allergy-friendly option.

In general, I find it incredibly hard to trust a restaurant to prepare a safe, allergy-friendly meal for my son. Further, I’m talking about allergies with restaurant staff that may not fully understand what I’m saying—either because my French is so poor or their English is limited. That’s why cards describing food allergies in multiple languages can be extremely helpful, especially while traveling in a place like Switzerland with four official languages. If you haven’t seen this already, check out Allerglobal, which develops free translated allergy cards. I ran across this recently, and a thoughtful Dairy-Free Switzerland reader just reminded me of it again.

Overall, we had a great trip to Bern, despite the rainy weather, and we look forward to our next weekend adventure with the kids. All the advanced preparation we did to find restaurants, the nearest grocery stores, etc. helped make the trip a safe and successful one. We still have a lot to learn when it comes to traveling with food allergies in Switzerland, but we’re feeling more confident having at least taken this first trip.

How do you find allergy-friendly restaurants in Switzerland? Do you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or hotels? Please leave a comment below if you have advice or suggestions to share or send an email to Thanks!