Birnbrot

PEAR BREAD

The Swiss are famous for their cakes and pastries. Birnbrot (beern-broht)ear tea bread, is usually accompanied by steaming cups of hot chocolate. If dried pears are not available, you can use canned or fresh pears, well drained and diced.

ONE LARGE LOAF BREAD

2 oz. plus

1 teaspoon sugar

5 fl. oz. lukewarm milk

1 tablespoon dried yeast

10 oz. 2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 oz. plus

1 tablespoon butter

1 egg, lightly beaten beaten egg and milk for glaze

8 fl. oz. water

8 oz. – cups dried pears, coarsely chopped

4 oz. stoned, dried prunes, coarsely chopped

2½ oz. seedless raisins juice of

½ lemon

2 oz. walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons kirsch grated rind of

1 lemon

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ tablespoons dry red wine

In a small bowl, dissolve

1 teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm milk. Sprinkle the yeast on the milk and stir to mix. Let the mixture stand in a warm, draught-free place for about

10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up and the mixture almost doubles in bulk.

Sift the flour, salt and the remaining sugar into a large, warm mixing bowl. Rub 2 ounces butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast and the lightly beaten egg.

Stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Then, using your hands, lightly knead and pat the dough into a ball.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, sprinkling the surface with a little extra flour when necessary to prevent the dough from sticking.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large, greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and place it in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in bulk.

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. In a small saucepan bring the water to the boil. Add the pears, prunes, raisins and lemon juice to the water and, stirring frequently, simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the fruit is’ tender and can be mashed easily with the back of a spoon.

Drain the fruit thoroughly. Puree it in a blender or rub it through a strainer with the back of a spoon. Stir the walnuts, sugar, kirsch, grated lemon rind, cinnamon and nutmeg into the fruit puree.

When the ingredients are well mixed, stir in the wine a little at a time. The puree should be very thick, so add the wine with caution.

Using a pastry brush, evenly coat a large baking sheet or Swiss-roll tin with the remaining tablespoon of butter.

Lightly dust a piece of greaseproof or waxed paper, which is about 18-inches square, with flour. Punch the dough to get rid of air pockets. Transfer it to the paper. Knead the dough lightly and roll it into a square about J-inch thick.

With a palette knife, spread the filling over the dough, covering it smoothly to within 1 inch of its edges. Fold the edges over the filling and roll the dough like a Swiss roll using the paper to lift the dough.

A favourite Swiss bread, Birnbrot is filled with a rich mixture of kirsch, red wine, dried fruit, nuts and spices.

Transfer the roll to the buttered baking sheet and lightly prick the outside surface all over with a fork. Put the roll in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 400°F (Gas Mark 6, 200°C).

Brush the top, sides and ends of the bread with the egg-and-milk mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C), and bake for a further 50 minutes, or until the crust of the bread is golden and crisp.

Transfer the bread to a wire cake rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.

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