Okay, it’s a fruitcake!
I’ve been trying to figure out another name for this outrageously delicious bread that does not conjure up cross-sections of red and green candied cherries. Instead, these are the beautiful fruits and nuts that go into this bread.
Whenever I serve this bread, almost everyone asks for the recipe. I have been making some variation of it since I first adapted it from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, or “Silver Palate 2” as we called it back in the Eighties.
Every December, around Christmas time, I pull out all the half-used packages of dried fruit and unsalted nuts, weigh out 52 ounces of fruit and 28 ounces of nuts, and make this bread. The only dried fruit that is a must-have in the bunch is the prunes. You could say this is how I clean out my pantry every year.
Yield: Makes 3 loaves or 8 mini loaves
52 ounces dried fruit: prunes, dates, cherries, raisins, and/or apricots
28 ounces nuts: pecans, almonds, and walnuts
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs, room temperature, separated
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
grated zest of one orange
6 tablespoons butter, melted
5 tablespoons whipping cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1½ cups whole wheat flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
Prepare oven and pans:
Preheat oven to 325º.
Spray three 9x5x3 loaf pans lightly with cooking spray. Line each pan with aluminum foil. Butter the foil liner. We do this tedious process because the bread needs to cook for a long time at a low temperature. The foil keeps the loaves from drying out and sticking to the pans. As a test, I made two regular loaves and three mini loaves. I didn’t use foil on the mini loaves, and the bread stuck to the pans. I’m a believer. The reason you spray the pan before lining it with foil is for easy release of the foil-lined loaves after they have baked. These steps are all necessary. Believe me, I’m not one for make-work.
Measure fruit and nuts:
I keep large bags of dried fruits and nuts in the pantry. When it comes time to make this recipe, I pour a good mix of them into a bowl placed on a digital scale and keep adding more until the scale reads 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Then I pour in the nuts until the scale reads a total of 5 pounds.
Technique Time: Zeroing out a scale
A digital scale is a good tool to have in the kitchen. I recommend this one by OXO because it can weigh items up to 11 pounds. You’ll need to weigh the mixing bowl first and “zero out” that weight before adding the fruits and nuts. To do this, place the large empty bowl on the scale. This bowl weighs 5 pounds and 2.5 ounces. Push the “zero” button. The scale is now ready to show the weight of just the ingredients in the bowl.
Here is a list of the fruits and nuts I typically use :
16 oz prunes + 5 oz cherries + 6 oz apricots (cut each in half) +
8 oz raisins + 17 oz pitted dates (cut each in half) = total of 52 oz.
As for the nuts, I typically use 16 oz pecans + 8 oz walnuts + 4 oz slivered almonds = a total of 28 oz.
Next, add ½ cup of all-purpose flour and mix with your hands to break up the fruits that are stuck together. Make sure every morsel of food is dusted with the flour. This helps keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking.
Prepare the batter
Separate the eggs into whites and yolks.
Beat egg whites on high speed in a clean, dry, mixing bowl until the whites puff up and form peaks. Don’t overbeat the egg whites. Use a rubber spatula to gently move the beaten whites to another bowl. Set aside.
Next, add the eggs and sugars to the mixing bowl. There is no need to wash the bowl first. Cream ingredients together for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
Add the grated zest of one orange. To learn more about zesting citrus, go here.
Add melted butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and almond extract to the batter and mix for one minute on medium speed.
In a separate small bowl, use a whisk to mix the whole wheat flour and baking powder.
Add flour mixture to batter and stir gently for 30 seconds until ingredients are well-blended. Do not over mix.
Now you have a bowl of batter and a bowl of stiff egg whites.
Fold egg whites gently into the batter and blend until just mixed. This process of “folding in” the fluffed up egg whites makes your batter lighter.
Stir batter into the bowl with the fruits and nuts.
Pour batter evenly into three loaf pans. Use your fingers to create a mound down the midline of each loaf pan.
Bake loaves covered with a sheet of foil for the first 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 40 minutes. Loaves will be medium brown in color when done. Oven temperatures vary, so check the color at 30 minutes. You can’t rely on the knife test to check for doneness because it continues to come out with crumbs on it, even when the loaves are done.
This bread freezes well. I found one in my freezer that was one and a half years old. When I thawed it, I was prepared to throw it out, but instead, it was perfectly delicious.
For other holiday ideas, check out the Holiday menu on the taskbar.
Other Quick Breads:
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
Cranberry Muffins with Orange Zest and Pecans
The Biscuit King
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