A healthy holiday treat — imagine!
Hutzelbrot is a flavour-packed and delicious fruit bread from southern Germany. It contains no eggs, added fat or sugar, and is rich in minerals and vitamins. Children have a great time when you let them help you to work all that fruit into that little bit of bread dough — it is rather like making mud pies and just as messy, but the results are so much better! Ten loaves may seem like a lot, but the loaves make welcome holiday gifts from your kitchen and I have found that 10 is barely enough. The recipe can be halved.
Yield: 10 small loaves of Hutzelbrot.
500 grams dried apricots
500 grams prunes
500 grams dried figs (the kind that are strung on a length of raffia work best)
250 grams golden raisins
250 grams currants
5 tablespoons dark rum
200 grams walnut halves
200 grams hazelnuts
200 grams almonds, blanched
125 grams candied citron peel, finely chopped
125 grams candied orange peel, finely chopped
The grated rind of 2 lemons
The bread dough
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sugar (optional, for proofing the yeast)
1 envelope dried yeast
2 tablespoons salt
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
The night before making the bread, cover the apricots, prunes, and figs in plenty of water in a very large pot.
On baking day, remove the figs from the pot and reserve. Stew the remaining fruits in just enough of the soaking water to cover them for 20 minutes or until the fruit is done but not mushy. Drain, saving about 2 cups of the stewing liquor, and cool. Soak the raisins in the rum, cover and reserve, stirring occasionally.
While the fruit is simmering, make the bread dough and set to rise. When doubled in bulk, punch it down and let it rise again.
Trim the stem ends of the figs and cut them in thirds or quarters. Chop the citron and orange peel. Pit the prunes and pull the prunes and apricots in halves. Butter and flour two large cookie sheets.
Now the fun begins: pull the risen dough into a large, thin round. Spread all the fruits and nuts (except the almonds — reserve them for later) over the dough and work the whole mess so that the fruit and dough are mixed as evenly as possible. Divide the mixture into 10 equal portions, shape and smooth them into round loaves and place them on the greased and floured cookie sheets. Decorate the loaves with the almonds, hedgehog fashion. Let rise again.
Bake the bread in a preheated, 360ºF oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 325ºF; bake the loaves for another hour. The bread will be very dark, but the fruit needs time to dry. Meanwhile, boil down the stewing liquor to 1-1/3 cups. When the bread is done, brush each loaf with the liquor while it is still very hot. Thoroughly cool the loaves on a rack.
The Hutzelbrot will keep for a few days unrefrigerated. Serve it sliced into ½-inch slices and, if you want to gild the lily, spread a slice with some cold butter. This bread freezes very well. To freeze, wrap the loaves in plastic wrap or seal in a plastic bag. Let them defrost in their wrapper and, if desired, crisp them in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes.