Sunday, February 1, 2015

Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

Well, first of all, Happy Tu be'shvat, or Jewish Arbor Day!  Mendy sent me a list of Jewish holidays (thanks, Mendy!), and I was having a hard time finding an appropriate recipe.  It seemed like it should be a middle-Eastern fruit that grows on trees, and I thought apricots met those requirements.  (Don't even tell me if apricots don't really grow on trees).  Wheat is also celebrated on Tu be'shvat, so a bread also seemed appropriate.  Tu be'shvat is spelled in multiple different ways in English, but if you have a complaint about the way I spelled it, take it up with Mendy.

This bread has quite a lot going for it.  It's pretty easy (you have to make a biga ahead of time, but that only takes a few minutes, and then you can ignore it for hours); it's perfect on a cheese board and so much more homey than crackers; it makes fabulous toast after its first outing; and I got to make it with my adorable grandson.

I had a terrible shock when I opened the bag of apricots.  They were black!  At first, I thought I'd bought prunes by mistake, but, no, they were definitely supposed to be apricots.  Paul Newman apricots.  Poor man.  If only he knew how quality control at his little factory had deteriorated after his death.  I was not going to put disease-ridden apricots in my bread, so I opened the tin of mixed fruits and nuts I keep on hand for snacking and managed to pull out enough apricot-colored apricots for the bread.  I plumped them in a little water, and they looked a-ok.  I would have plumped them in apricot brandy, but JJ's mother would not have been amused.

By the bye, I googled "black apricots" and discovered that they probably weren't disease-ridden, but were just unsulphured.  I suppose one could make a case that unsulphured apricots are healthier, but I don't think you'll find any colored pictures of black apricots gracing the bags in the dried fruits section of your supermarket.  Frankly, their color is not a selling point.  From now on, I'll buy apricots in bulk so I can see what I'm getting.

I told JJ that there was something amazing about this bread.  "What is amazing, Lulu?"  he said.  "Just wait until I do the walnuts,."  I said. I thought he'd think it was great that I could rub off most of the skins from the walnuts, so I roasted them, and rubbed them in a dish towel, and, with great fanfare, showed him the result.  "This is not amazing to me, Lulu," he said.  Also, he looked at me like I was a little wacky, but I blame the iPad, which does so many truly amazing things that walnut skins left on a dish towel don't have a chance in the competition.

After the nuts are skinned and cooled, you simply mix the dough.

After my false advertising with the amazing walnuts, JJ kind of lost interest in the project, especially when I offered him a piece of walnut and my daughter yelled, "Choking hazard!"  Poor JJ may have been suffering an extreme loss of faith in his Lulu, who first came up with black apricots, then completely failed to deliver on the amazingness claim, and then apparently tried to choke him.  The kitchen got quieter.

Rising (twice) into a fruity, puffy dough.

I guess I never got a picture of how you "set the apricots in a staggered row lengthwise across the dough, under the triangle."  In fact, I didn't get a picture of the triangle, but the directions were easy to follow.

This loaf is by no means perfectly shaped.  There are occasional nodules and the odd burnt raisin.  But that just makes it look homemade (by a not very exacting baker).  And it looks just fine sliced.

And wouldn't that have looked ugly with black apricots?  I'm so glad I didn't let myself be talked into using them by one of the web sites touting their health benefits:  "organically grown, "NO preservatives or pesticides," "deep, dark, complex."  Maybe.

The final test of this bread (of any bread, in my book) is what kind of toast it makes.  This bread makes excellent toast--crusty and nutty, with some sweetness, but not as sweet as a muffin or breakfast cake.  I was sad when I took the last two slices out of the freezer (well, they're small, so you have to have two, right?)

Another thing you can do to mark Tu be'shvat is to plant a tree.  This is clearly not a celebration arising from the North American frigid northland.  But celebrating it with this bread is not only possible, it's delicious.  Hope you enjoy it, Mendy--and everyone else!


  1. Hi there! Isn't it amazing how pretty this bread is when it's cut and toasted for breakfast (which was the way it was eaten in my household). I think your uncut bread is truly beautiful. Mine came out all gnarly looking. BTW Lulu, it was a stroke of genius to use the IPad as a scapegoat. The little one is adorable.

  2. Parents now a day... they think everything is a hazard, bet you gave walnuts to your little ones? But, I could imagine it and it made me laugh. After thinking I was not going to make the bread, I did and after reading all the good reviews from the bakers I was looking forward to then have a major let down with the flavor. Boo! Not my favorite.. but it still looks pretty.

  3. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in your kitchen! "Choking hazard" - I'm still laughing!

  4. Hi Marie: glad you like the bread, I sure did! It's a new favorite! I love the photos and little JJ is adorable! Please mind your grandma P's and Q's and stop trying to choke the little guy with those dangerous walnuts!! Ah well, in your daughter's defense, I remember being a cautious young mother. Anyway, really enjoyed the recipe and will be making it again soon.

  5. Your grandson is just adorable!!!
    I love how your bread turned out. I immediately recognized the apricot "problem". I bought some a while back at trader Joe's that were unsulphered. Loved them! Will never go back to the (almost radio active looking) bright orange counterpart. Given that I used dark Medjool dates in my bread, I think you could have used your " disease ridden " apricots :)

  6. You could do stand up! I so appreciate your sense of humor. By the way, there's no way I would have used those apricots - no way.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  7. ב''ה

    Apricots are traditionally one of the fruits that Abraham sent down to Joseph in Egypt as a gift. Definitely appropriate and middle-eastern. They do grow on trees and, as kids, we used their pits as middle-eastern marbles known as: "gogo'im". As for the spelling of Tu be'Shvat, it does not matter as long as the bread tasted good. :)

    Thanks for including this in schedule!!

  8. Your grandson is so cute! I laughed when you said your apricots looked diseased. It sure does..if i saw it, i would have thought it was spoilt due to the hot weather here. Your bread looks wonderful! I like how it didn't taste all that sweet and just the fruit sweetness makes it very yummy

  9. JJ is very sweet. He looks like a great (if fair-weather) helper.

    Those black apricots do look a bit startling. From my quick googling re golden raisins, there doesn't seem to be much science around the harm from sulphur dioxides in dried fruit except for asthmatics.

  10. haha! i used unsulphured ("black") apricots in my bread!! you can see the photos tomorrow. how fun that JJ got to help you, at least until you unimpressed him and almost gave him a choking hazard. i look forward to my little guy helping out in a couple of years.

  11. Your bread looks beautiful. Mine tastes great, but its shape was kind of wonky...Totally understand the choking thing. I'm the Mom who walked around with a "catcher" for an entire week waiting for a lego pirate hat to make its way through my sons system. What a fiasco! Anyway, love your bread and lesson about black apricots. Now I'm curious and on the hunt for them! :)

  12. He is the cutest thing ever! Very pretty bread, Marie. I envy you already working your way through the bread bible and now with great bread baking skills. It's a different iPad generation, with this touch screen technology. My youngest granddaughter asked me what clothes pin was I used to keep a bag closed with...seriously, she had never seen a clothes pin or clothesline before. We then started counting up the things they probably have never seen and suddenly I felt positively antique. I also stood in the isle at Trader Joe's with a bag of black unsulfured apricots and pretty bright sulfured ones. Aesthetics won out.

  13. JJ is so cute. I love your write up and all the conversation. Choking hazards! Your daughter is keeping you in line.

    I should tell you that the unsulphured apricots is the only one I have ever used. I didn't even know there are orange ones and those looks colored to me because they are not black! Shows that anything is odd when you're not used to it - that's my claim and I'm sticking to it!

  14. there are tear of laughter in my eyes. most of all re the ipad analogy. what just might be amazing to him is the difference in taste between the peeled and unpeeled but looks like that's not going to happen any time soon. but look at the way he is weighing the ingredients so carefully and with so much focus on the scale read out. by the way, how did you come to be called Lulu (i'm almost afraid to find out!)? i truly believe that there is no better lesson for a young child than baking. it's so wonderful you have this activity together. the only think i remember 'playing' with my grandmother was a card game she learned in "the old country" called pigs. don't ask....oh--and steal the old man's bundle.

  15. Hello Marie ,what a wonderful blog and your bread looks wonderful actually but you know I couldn't make it , it is beautiful I love the colour of it and the texture looks really nice and I see you a little grandson there helping you that's so sweet.