Is there a smell that 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 its 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 into 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 the 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 kid’s 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.
- 2 1/2 cups dried fruit such as peaches, pears, apples, figs, apricots, prunes, cranberries, or currants
- 1/2 cup of raisins
- 5 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar or honey
- 1 cup liquid from cooking fruit
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp grated lemon or orange peel
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- Boil all fruit except raisins. Drain and set one cup of liquid aside for use in the bread recipe.
- Combine sugar, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water and let yeast rise for 10 minutes.
- Put all ingredients in a mixer and mix with a dough hook until the dough makes a nice soft ball. You can mix by hand, but it is very difficult dough to work with and don't recommend it for beginners.
- Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This can range from 1-2 hours depending on the humidity level where you live.
- Punch down and shape into loaves. Place in greased bread pans and poke holes in the top with a fork. Let rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or 25-30 minutes if you use smaller loaf pans.
Rising times vary greatly depending on how much humidity is in the air on baking day. Even though the recipe takes a long time, most of that is spent impatiently waiting for the dough to rise.