Up until recently my repertoire of Hanukkah edibles consisted of potato latkes (obviously), jelly-filled doughnuts, and little bags of chocolate coins, aka Hanukkah gelt. But while perusing Joan Nathan's Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous I came across a less familiar Hanukkah treat: Hutzel Wecken, a dense, fruit-studded bread from the Alsace region of France. Alsace shares its border with Germany, which accounts for this holiday bread's German name as well as for the kirsch (a German cherry liqueur) that finds its way into the recipe.
When I set out to make my own Hutzel Wecken I was struck by the sheer volume of fruit and nuts that find their way into the dough—there didn't seem to be a dried fruit or nut that didn't make it into the recipe. But when it comes to fruit and nut- studded breads less is never more, and I'd much rather err on the side of too many raisins.
In Nathan's introduction to the recipe she says that although this bread was traditionally considered a cake, she prefers to treat it is a bread, and I couldn't agree more. This is the kind of fruit bread that's just dying to be sliced thin and served with a cheese plate or at least a pat or two of good butter.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous to give away this week.
- Yield:2 loaves
- 2 cups chopped dried pears
- 1 cup chopped dried pitted plums
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup dried currants
- 1 cup roughly chopped dried figs
- 1 cup roughly chopped pitted dates
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 1/3 cup salted peanuts
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup kirsch
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Put the pears and plums in a saucepan with water to cover by an inch. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Drain, reserving both the fruit and the liquid. Toss the pears and plums in a large bowl with the raisins, currants, figs, dates, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, orange zest, and lemon zest. Add the kirsch, and toss again.
In a separate bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the reserved fruit liquid, and then add 1/2 cup of the flour, and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Stir in the remaining 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt.
Knead the dough in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook. Add the fruits and nuts, and, using a low setting, slowly stir into the dough. When everything is incorporated, turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface, incorporating enough more flour to make the dough smooth and elastic. Even so, it will be a wet dough. Shape into a large ball, put in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a round ball, and put both on the baking sheet. Let rest for 20 minutes. Bake, turning the temperature down to 375°F after 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the dough is cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes.
If you want, while the breads are baking, make a glaze by whisking together 1/2 cup of the fruit water and the confectioners’ sugar. As soon as the breads come out of the oven, spoon the glaze over them. Serve warm or at room temperature.