Holiday Bread

I am haunted…by the memory of a buttery bread filled with dried fruit and almond paste… a Czech Christmas tradition made by my Grandmother who refused to write her recipes down.  “Come and watch me make them, and write them down yourself, ” she said.  But I lived in Nashville and she lived in Iowa…and I was not able to visit until it was too late…

I started baking bread when I moved into my first apartment in college.  Armed with the book, Bake Your Own Bread by Floss and Stan Dworkin (a gift from my mother), I worked my way through all the recipes.  My boyfriend was a potter and made a beautiful bread bowl so I could mix, rise and knead all in one compact space — perfect for apartment bread baking (and a method I still use today…although that bowl and the boyfriend are long gone…)

And it was then that I started to experiment with recreating my grandmother’s holiday bread.

It has gone through many iterations.  Sometimes I put the sultanas and apricots in the dough and sometimes they are part of the filling.  It tried making my own almond paste(lots of work) and once used marzipan (expensive and stiff)…

Currently, I make a butter dough, not too different from a challah dough and incorporate sultanas (aka golden raisins) and chopped apricots in the dough.  Then I make a flat rectangle and spread almond paste across it, and roll up before placing it in a baking pan.

Once it has risen and baked, it emerges from the pan a glorious golden wonder…fragrant, buttery, fruity and sweet.  It makes divine French toast.  If it lasts that long!

Download your illustrated copy of my Czech Inspired Holiday Bread

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