Is there a smell the immediately transports you back to your childhood? For me, it’s a special blend of yeast, lemon zest, cloves, cinnamon, and fruit that takes me back to December at my grandma’s house. There would be baking piled high on the counters, more on it’s way to the freezer, and plenty of loaves of Hutzelbrot destined for friends, family, and our own bellies.
I didn’t know the bread had an actual name, I just knew it as the fruit bread that reminded me of fruit cake that was made only during the Christmas season. I thought it was okay, but all the adults in my life seemed to practically fight over a loaf. Now that I’m an adult myself I can see why.
Fun fact: I probably would have liked the bread better if my grandma cut the apricots up in smaller pieces. But of course as a child you can’t articulate that, so I foolishly asked her if she could make the bread with less fruit in it. . . totally defeating the point. Bless her heart, she did make some for me with half the fruit in it. Can you tell I was her only grandchild?
Finally, I must thank my substitute Grandma, former babysitter, and much beloved relative Lois for teaching me how to make Hutzelbrot (and bread in general) one winter afternoon a couple of years ago. By the time I was interested in making my own bread well, my grandma was not healthy enough or strong enough to teach me how. She tried to show me as a child, but I didn’t do it often enough with her to cement it into my memory.
You can make bread by reading and trying recipes. However, if you know someone who makes it well, I highly recommend making a batch with them one afternoon. There’s a certain feel to the dough that you just can’t figure out from reading a recipe or watching a Youtube video. You need someone to actually show you how properly kneaded dough feels.
A Fruitcake for People who Hate Fruitcake
Our family’s version of Hutzelbrot is actually some sort of odd combination of hutzelbrot (apricot bread), white fruit bread, and stollen. The ingredients resemble Bremer Klaben, but there are no nuts or alcohol and ratio of bread to fruit is wrong. I personally like to think of it as fruit cake (actually, bread) for people who hate fruit cake.
It’s best served at breakfast or for a snack, with heaps of butter or jam. Traditionally you’re supposed to let fruit bread cure for a couple of days, but I wouldn’t recommend it with this version. I don’t think the sugar or alcohol content is high enough to preserve it. And honestly, who can resist a slice of warm, fresh bread straight out of the oven?
Hutzelbrot makes a beautiful homemade gift for a hostess, neighbours, or your kids teachers.
A few tips for making Christmas Fruit Bread
If you’re expecting hutzelbrot to rise like regular bread, don’t. The dried fruit is so heavy that it takes forever to rise. Super dry Prairie air in the winter doesn’t help matters either.
I’ve put the ingredients in the recipe exactly as I’ve used them in the pictures. However, you can use any combination of dried peaches, pears, apples, apricots, figs, or prunes you like. Cranberries & currents weren’t on the list in the original recipe, but I like them and they were in my cupboard, so in they went. The only non-negotiable is the 1/2 cup of raisins. I used golden raisins to appease my yellow-loving son.