Like most immigrants, Sybille van Kempen and her family arrived in the United States with two things, sometimes warring: a dream to pursue and a longing for home—in their case, Northern Germany. The holidays in particular seemed to tease at that yearning, as even the classic Christmas songs on the radio seemed desperate to return somewhere, anywhere, that felt like home. There’s no place like home for the holidays; I’ll be home for Christmas. What if you can’t go home?
The van Kempens—again, like most immigrants—would turn to cherished family recipes.
“Stollen was the Christmas tradition in our family,” says van Kempen, whose family dream propelled her to the helm of an East End empire. She now owns and operates Loaves & Fishes Foodstore, Loaves & Fishes Cookshop, The Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant, and has even published a beloved series of cookbooks. “The recipe came from Northern Germany, from my grandmother and her mother before her, and then it was passed along to my mother and then to me. But still, if I have it, all I think of immediately is my mother.”
The thought is as beautiful as the tradition. Van Kempen has vivid memories of eating stollen every morning during the holidays, of slathering it with butter, of wrapping it up with a red bow and delivering fresh-baked stollens as the most welcome, warming gift.
Licia Householder, Loaves & Fishes’ executive pastry chef and co-author of Loaves & Fishes’ Farm Series Cookbooks, had similar childhood memories—not of stollen, but of another European Christmastime treat.
“I understood Sybille’s love of stollen, because my family has its own tradition of making Swedish Braid,” says Householder. “My grandmother’s aunt started, and then she must’ve taught my grandpa how to make it. He taught my aunt, and then when I started to get interested in cooking, he taught me how to make it, too. Now, my aunt and I make it every year and distribute so many loaves of it to our family and friends as gifts to enjoy on Christmas morning.”
So the country of origin was different, the recipe was different, but the feeling and intention and tradition was all the same. Van Kempen and Householder decided to include both recipes in the Goodale Farms edition of their Loaves & Fishes’ Farm Series Cookbooks, and worked together to adapt the van Kempen family recipe for stollen to create the perfect holiday offering for the Loaves & Fishes Foodstore.
“The stollen we offer now is a combination of Alicia’s family and our family,” says van Kempen. “Licia adapted the recipe beautifully and now there’s a ring of marzipan in the middle. It is extremely special to both of us.”
So much so that Householder, van Kempen and their work-family at Loaves & Fishes have even developed their own tradition around it.
“We start accepting orders for our stollen on December 1st,” says Householder. “And now, when we bake the first batch, we save one just for us, cut it open, slather some butter on it, and enjoy a piece of it together as a family. For us, it’s the official start of the holidays.”
And for van Kempen, like so many German immigrants, it still tastes just like home.
Loaves & Fishes Foodstore is located at 50 Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack. To order Christmas stollen from Loaves & Fishes Foodstore, please call the Foodstore directly at 631.537.0555.