Fruit-Studded Holiday Bread

Celebrate Easter by baking this sweet, decadent Fruit-Studded Holiday Bread. Studded with currants, raisins, apricots and cranberries, this bread makes a perfect breakfast and a great way to spread love to family members, neighbors and friends. This sweet bread is also delicious year-round because who doesn’t love a bread filled with dried fruit?

A close up of baked fruit studded holiday bread in a pan

It all started with an e-mail.

My mother occasionally sends me articles and tidbits with stories she thinks I will enjoy. (And she’s usually pretty spot on because I read them all.)

Last spring, I received an e-mail from her that said, “Part of me… [A neighbor] would make this every Easter. When I would be at home, she would send me bread to bring back to Memphis.”

And she attached a link to a New York Times recipe for holiday bread.

Not going to lie: I was intrigued. I loved the idea of baking a specific bread for Easter, and after going back and forth about some of the ingredients, I decided to make the bread as it was, then go from there.

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    My first batch of these beauties turned out beautifully last Easter. My husband’s family was in town, and the consensus was clear: This recipe was a winner. (Unsurprisingly, it also makes REALLY GOOD French toast.)

    The bread was great… but since I’m a tinker-er, I began playing with the recipe for fun, adding in different spices while taking out the ones I liked less.

    I baked my adapted recipe as a “welcome to the neighborhood” present for some new neighbors last spring. I heard only good things about it from them.

    And then I changed up a bit more, sharing the bread with more friends… and everyone was a fan.

    The original recipe of this bread is solid… but I love the little tweaks I’ve added during the last year.

    That’s what I present y’all with today: My rendition of this fantastic holiday bread.

    Slice of bread on speckled plate in front of bread loaf on a platter

    What you need to make this recipe:

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    Overhead close up of fruit studded holiday bread

    How to make Easter Bread

    Make the sponge

    What is a sponge? It’s the base of our Easter bread!

    First, we’ll pour the room temperature milk into a large bowl, and then sprinkle in the yeast. Sometimes, I do this in a large liquid measuring cup so I can see how much it rises. 

    When the yeast has dissolved, whisk a cup of flour into the mixture. Cover it with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.

    Transfer it to a warm place and let it rise. We’re looking for the size of your sponge to double and to become very frothy and bubbly.

    This step can take 30 minutes, but it’s dependent on the temperature of your house and the storage space. I’ve had it take upwards of an hour and a half. Watch the sponge, NOT the clock.

    How long will this rise take?

    It will take around 30 minutes, but it’s dependent on your home’s temperature and where you’re resting the sponge. This step has taken 30 minutes for me, but it’s also taken an hour and a half, so prepare yourself. 

    Prepare the ingredients for the bread

    Baking bread is always easier if your ingredients are together beforehand. Also, several of them need to be at room temperature, so it’s important to get them out of the fridge beforehand.

    First, melt the butter in the microwave. It should be completely melted. When it is, set it aside and let it cool. (If it’s too warm when it goes into the sponge, it could kill the yeast.)

    Next, toast the almonds. This can be done in a skillet over high heat or in the oven. However you do it, ensure that the nuts are sufficiently browned but do not burn. 

    Measure the dried fruit into a bowl, and cover with hot water. Let them sit for 10 minutes, as this water is going to make the fruits plump and juicy. Drain the fruit in a colander, and return it to its bowl, then pour rum onto the fruit. Set aside.

    In another bowl, crack the whole eggs. Separate the other two egg yolks from the whites. Add those yolks to the other eggs, and transfer the egg whites to a mason jar or another food storage container. (I like to pop ’em in the fridge and will use them to make an egg white omelet the following morning.)

    Use a fork to beat the eggs, then set them aside.

    Make the Bread Dough and Let Rise

    1. When the sponge has doubled in size, pour the beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract into the sponge mixture. Stir together.
    2. Fold in the rum-soaked fruit with a rubber spatula, then set the sponge and fruit mixture aside.
    3. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, measure 4 cups of all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, anise seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests, as well as the toasted slivered almonds. Whisk until combined.
    4. Pour the sponge mixture over the flour mixture. Start the mixer fitted with a dough hook on a low speed, turning it up once the loose flour begins incorporating into the dough.
    5. When the dough comes together, allow the stand mixer to knead the dough for a few minutes before turning off the appliance and transferring the dough to a greased large bowl. (You can also knead the dough by hand if you would prefer or if you don’t have a stand mixer.)
    6. Cover the bowl containing the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This should take around 45 minutes.
    7. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down and knead it lightly before cutting it in half and forming two loaves in whatever form you would like. (Round loaves are pretty straightforward and simple, but braided loafs, as pictured here, are beautiful, too!)
    8. Place the loaves side by side on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Leave at least 4″ between the two for the second rise.
    9. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap or with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled. This rise should take around 30 minutes, but remember, it is all dependent on the temperature of your house.

    Bake the Bread

    1. When the loaves have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. While the oven preheats, make the egg wash with the remaining egg yolk and the heavy whipping cream. In a small bowl, beat the ingredients together with a fork.
    3. Brush the loaves generously with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the raw sugar.
    4. Transfer the leaves to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until the loaves are a dark, glossy brown.
    5. Once cooked through, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before enjoying.
    Two slices of fruit studded bread on a speckled plate

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I half this recipe? Yes, you should be able to half it, though I haven’t ever done it so I cannot confirm that it will 100% work.

    Can I use different dried fruit or different ratios of it? Absolutely. So long as your dried fruit totals 2 ¼ cups. Make sure that they’re all around the same size, so if you’re using a dried fig or apricot, you should chop them up.

    I don’t eat nuts. Can I leave them out of this Easter bread? Yes, you can leave the nuts out if that’s not your jam. You can also use a different tree nut that you have on hand if you don’t like almonds.

    Two loaves of fruit studded holiday bread in a pan

    I meaaaaaaan… how could you NOT love this bread? It takes some time and some love, but trust me when I say this is well-worth the trouble. As an added bonus, everyone you know who you share this bread with will just adore you.

    Here’s how you can make your own:

    Fruit-Studded Holiday Bread for Easter // The Speckled Palate
    Yield: 2 loaves

    Fruit-Studded Holiday Bread

    Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

    Celebrate Easter by baking this sweet, decadent Fruit-Studded Holiday Bread. Studded with currants, raisins, apricots and cranberries, this bread is the perfect breakfast for Easter Sunday and a great way to spread love to family members, neighbors and friends during Holy Week.

    Ingredients

    Sponge

    • 1 cup milk (whole, skim, even almond works), at room temperature
    • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour (120g)

    Bread Dough

    • ½ cup sun-dried raisins (80g)
    • ½ cup golden raisins (80g)
    • ¼ cup chopped dried apricots (45g)
    • 1 cup dried cranberries (125g)
    • 2 tablespoons dark spiced rum
    • 2 whole eggs
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour (480g)
    • ½ cup granulated sugar (120g)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seeds (4g)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (3g)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (4g)
    • 1 teaspoon orange zest
    • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
    • ¾ cup blanched slivered almonds (100g)

    Egg Wash + Bread Topping

    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

    Instructions

    Make the sponge

    1. Pour the milk into a large bowl. Add the yeast, and then let it dissolve. (This will depend on the heat of the milk. Too hot will kill the yeast, but if the milk is cool to touch, it will take a while for the yeast to bloom.)
    2. Whisk in a cup of all-purpose flour, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
    3. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size and is very frothy. This should take about 30 minutes, though it has taken upwards of an hour for me, depending on the weather and how warm my house is.

    Prep the ingredients for the bread

    1. In the microwave, melt the butter. When completely melted, set aside and let cool slightly.
    2. Toast the almonds in a nonstick skillet over high heat or in the oven. When sufficiently browned, but not burned, remove from the heat, and cool. You can use almond slivers, which I recommend, but you can also do this with whole almonds and chop them when cool.
    3. Measure the currants, raisins, cranberries and apricots into a bowl.
    4. Cover the dried fruit with hot water, and let stand for 10 minutes.
    5. Drain the fruit in a colander, then return to its original bowl.
    6. Pour the rum over the fruit, and set aside.
    7. In another bowl, crack the 2 whole eggs. Add the 2 yolks, as well. (Keep those egg whites for a scramble tomorrow morning or a meringue!)
    8. Use a fork and beat the eggs, then set aside.

    Make the Bread Dough and Let Rise

    1. When the sponge has doubled in size, pour the beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract into the sponge mixture. Stir together.
    2. Fold in the rum-soaked fruit with a rubber spatula, then set the sponge and fruit mixture aside.
    3. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, measure 4 cups of all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, anise seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests, as well as the toasted slivered almonds. Whisk until combined.
    4. Pour the sponge mixture over the flour mixture. Start the mixer fitted with a dough hook on a low speed, turning it up once the loose flour begins incorporating into the dough.
    5. When the dough comes together, allow the stand mixer to knead the dough for a few minutes before turning off the appliance and transferring the dough to a greased large bowl. (You can also knead the dough by hand if you would prefer or if you don't have a stand mixer.)
    6. Cover the bowl containing the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This should take around 45 minutes. (However, please note that the rise time will depend on how warm or cool your house is. The warmer your home, the faster the dough will rise.)
    7. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down and knead it lightly before cutting it in half and forming two loaves in whatever form you would like. (Round loaves are pretty straightforward and simple, but braided loafs, as pictured here, are beautiful, too!)
    8. Place the loaves side by side on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Leave at least 4" between the two for the second rise.
    9. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap or with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled. This rise should take around 30 minutes, but remember, it is all dependent on the temperature of your house.

    Bake the Bread

    1. When the loaves have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. While the oven preheats, make the egg wash with the remaining egg yolk and the heavy whipping cream. In a small bowl, beat the ingredients together with a fork.
    3. Brush the loaves generously with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the raw sugar.
    4. Transfer the leaves to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until the loaves are a dark, glossy brown.
    5. Once cooked through, transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before enjoying.

    Notes

    Adapted from this recipe from The New York Times.

    Can I half this recipe? Yes, you should be able to half it, though I haven't ever done it so I cannot confirm that it will 100% work.

    Can I use different dried fruit or different ratios of it? Absolutely. So long as your dried fruit totals 2 ¼ cups. Make sure that they're all around the same size, so if you're using a dried fig or apricot, you should chop them up.

    I don't eat nuts. Can I leave them out? Yes, you can leave the nuts out if that's not your jam. You can also use a different tree nut that you have on hand if you don't like almonds.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    16

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 390Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 133mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 3gSugar: 23gProtein: 8g

    Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

    How much did you love this recipe?

    Follow me on Instagram for more content, and share a photo of your creation with the hashtag #speckledpalate!

    Do you make a specific traditional dish for Easter?

    Have you ever made Easter bread?

    The photos and recipe for this bread recipe were originally published on April 18, 2014. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on March 23, 2017.

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    21 Comments

    1. OMG how yummy!!!!! Thank you for sharing 🙂 You always have great recipes!! 🙂

      1. Thank you, Tina! I’m sometimes skeptical of fruit in bread, but this recipe is a major winner, and I look forward to hearing what you and your fam think if you do make it!

      1. Thanks, Eileen! This bread is definitely spectacular… and I may or may not be hoarding a loaf in my kitchen right now. Haha.

      1. Thanks so much, Winnie! Like you, I enjoy working with yeast, and I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe if you do give it a shot.

    2. I think I love you, there I said it, Ha,Ha, Well you and your recipes. My Dad’s a retired baker, he use to make bread like this around Christmas,I didn’t care for that green fruit they would put in the fruit cakes, so I liked that this didn’t have them.He also put pastichios in his bread too. I like the fact that you can make it however you like it, more fruit, less nuts, make it your own. My son’s gonna love this, Thank You, Take care!

      1. Aww, Carol Ann! You’re too sweet! Thank you! I love that your dad used to make bread like this around Christmas, and I hope this bread brings back some wonderful memories when you make it at home. This bread is so versatile, and I love how you can easily make it your own. Please let me know if you try pistachios in it – I bet that would be so tasty! Thanks for your sweet comment, and happy baking!

    3. This bread looks perfect, all those sweet flavors from the fruit and the gorgeous finish, this is great for Easter!

    4. I often bake with cranberries. I never think of apricots! This looks wonderful!

    5. This reminds me of a bread my grandma always made for Easter. I’ve been looking for her recipe, but maybe I’ll just try this one instead — looks delicious!

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