I make this every year on Christmas Eve to be enjoyed Christmas morning. It is rich and sweet and buttery, chock full of fruit and nuts. It's wonderful toasted! This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Step 1: Macerating Fruit
• 3 cups total of a mixture of dried fruit of your choice (sour cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, golden raisons, candied citrus peels, candied pineapple, etc.)
• 1 cup of Sailor Jerry's Rum (or your favorite brandy or whiskey--any of these work)
• 3+ tablespoons of flour
• 1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Combine and macerate for 1-24 hours. If you forget to do this ahead of time, a couple of short blasts in the microwave to warm the mixture will work to quickly plump up the fruit with boozy goodness. When you think the fruit has had enough, drain in a colander, then spread on a clean, dry towel for a few minutes to dry a bit more. Then, mix with flour until well coated. Add the sliced almonds.
Step 2: Make the Dough
• 5 cups of all purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon of yeast
• 1 1/4 cups of milk (I use canned coconut milk) warmed to blood-warm temp (not hot, but warmer than room temp)
• 3/4 cup of butter, melted and cooled a little bit (don't want it scalding hot)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 tsp almond extract
• 1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs, warmed to room temperature, beaten
For later use:
• 4 tablespoons of soft butter (divided between 2 loaves)
• 4 tablespoons of sugar (divided between 2 loaves)
• 7 ounce package of Almond Paste or Marzipan, divided (optional ingredient)
I combine the first 10 ingredients in a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook and knead until a nice soft/wet/sticky dough forms. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead some more and dump in the drained/flour-coated fruit. Yes! It appears to be equal amounts of each. Yes! It is difficult to get all the fruit to mix into the dough. Every year I swear I'll use less fruit next year. Every year I make the same amount of fruit. : )
Put in an buttered bowl, cover and place in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 3 hours--until doubled in size.
Punch down and knead a little bit, working the fruit into the dough even more. Divide in half. This makes 2 large loaves. Pat each half into a rough square and roll out to roughly 8" x 12" x 1/2".
I use an off-set spatula to smear a couple of tablespoons of butter across the surface of the rolled out dough and then sprinkle that with the 2 tablespoons of sugar.
I take the almond paste (less sweet) or marzipan and divide it in half and roll under my fingers into a rope just slightly shorter than the longest side of the dough. Lay this over the dough.
The next bit is hard to describe in words and probably not important, but it is done a certain way, traditionally. Fold over one of the long sides over the almond past. You are not folding in half. You are just folding up the bottom third. Then fold the other part over top of that, so that it's folded in three layers. You'll need to wet the edge with plain water to seal the dough to itself and tuck the ends under on three sides (one long edge and the 2 ends). This makes a nice oblong loaf. Do this for both loaves.
At this point I pick off any fruit that is protruding from the surface of the loaves. It will only burn anyway. This makes the loaves much neater in appearance and gives a tastier finished product.
Set the loaves out on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. One per sheet. (You cannot crowd these on a single sheet.) Cover the surface of the loaves lightly with soft butter and the plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for another hour or two. They will be almost twice their size. Toward the end of this period, preheat your oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
Bake the loaves 30-35 minutes. The outer crust will become dark mahogany. Some of the fruit on the surface may burn or get quite dark. Remove to a rack to cool for 2 hours. Wrap carefully and save for Christmas morning. On Christmas morning I sprinkle the loaves with powdered sugar and present to my family.
Jennifer Foehner Wells
I'm a stay-at-home mom of two boisterous boys. And a space freak. And I write stuff.