Today was another dreary, cold, rainy day in the Pioneer Valley. (Though I did get out for a short run this morning. My first run in 6 months. Woo-hoo! Just don't tell my rheumatologist!)
As usual, this not-so-fabulous weather put me in a baking mood. But I wanted to make something different than my usual sweet go-to treats. So I cracked open my recipe books and eventually decided on braided fruit loaves from my Fleischmann's Yeast Bread Machine Favorites book.
I did fiddle with the recipe a bit to increase the amount of fruit filling a little and to use an almond glaze (instead of vanilla). It turned out to be a very Easter-appropriate recipe, reminding me a bit of Babka Bread (just with a much bigger punch of fruit). I liked the apple and raisin filling, but I think the recipe would also be well suited to most any firm and/or dried fruit. I think I might try cinnamon & apple or pear & dried cranberry next time.
Here's the recipe. Go forth and experiment!
Braided Fruit Loaves
(Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. bread flour
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. raisins (I used a mix of regular, golden and crimson raisins)
1 medium golden delicious apple, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. water
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2-3 tsp. milk
Put dough ingredients into your bread machine in the order listed. Select dough/manual cycle.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining ingredients in a small saucepan and bringing to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let simmer 7-10 minutes until apples are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let cool.
When dough is done, take it out of the bread machine pan and place onto a floured board. Divide the dough in half.
Need 1 half of the dough for a minute or two so you can work with it. Then roll it into an 8" x 8" square. Place on a greased baking sheet. Spread half of fruit filling in a strip down the center, leaving at least 2" of dough on each side. Cut slits into the dough at 1" intervals along the side. Fold the strips diagonally across the center filling, alternating sides.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-35 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes, switching positions half-way through for even browning.
When done, remove from baking sheets and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the glaze, mix together confectioner's sugar and almond extract. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until glaze thins to a drizzling consistency (you may not use all of the milk).
Drizzle over loaves.
(The original recipe also calls for topping with toasted walnuts, but Mr. ValleyWriter doesn't do nuts in baked goods, so I omitted.)
As you can see, you get a fluffy bread with a nice layer of not-to-sweet fruit filling: