Since I have all these vanilla beans sitting around (I bought half a kilo of them a couple of months ago) as well as raspberry liqueur that nobody really wants to drink, I came up with this variation of my fruit bread. It just came out of the oven, so I can't try it yet. I won't know what it tastes like until I get to Italy and share it with my family! Let's hope this experiment was a success. ;) It sure smells and looks like a success.

Raspberry-Vanilla Fruit Bread

about 3-4 cups mixed dried fruits--a small handful each dried cherries, apricots, figs and apples and half a handful each dried peaches and pears
about 3-4 Tbsp candied ginger
3 vanilla beans, halved, seeds scraped out
1 cup raspberry liqueur
grated zest of two small clementines
2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
5/8 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted (stir often in a dry pan over med-low until they smell/taste toasty)

Cut the larger fruits into smaller pieces. The pieces of fruit in the bread can be as large or as small as you like. Place all the fruits in a saucepan with the ginger, liqueur, vanilla seeds and pods and clementine zest. Bring this to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat, cover and let it steep for about 30 minutes. (You don't really have to put the vanilla pods in this mixture, as the flavors won't have much time to come out. It might be nice to use them for something else, such as making vanilla sugar).

Butter and flour a loaf pan. Preheat your oven to 180° C (350° F). Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, then beat in the egg, then the milk.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet mix. Fold the mixture together, being careful not to overmix. Stir in the walnuts, the macerated fruit and its liquid. Spoon or pour the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Wrap the bread in plastic or foil once it's completely cooled. Wait until the next day before slicing it. In this bread's previous incarnations, we've enjoyed toasting it and spreading it with unsalted butter, cream cheese, or mascarpone.
I made this to take to Thanksgiving in Italy last year. Last night I altered the recipe a bit. This version of the bread had more fruit and more ginger than last time; I'm not exactly sure how much more. It's also a bit sweeter. With all the fruit as well as walnuts, this bread is hearty and a slice or two makes a nice breakfast. I had the first slice this morning (it tastes best if you let it sit overnight before slicing it) toasted and smothered in mascarpone, which melted some from the heat of the bread and made a gooey, creamy, fruity mess. :)



Sherried Fruit Bread (variation)

about 3-4 cups mixed dried fruits--I used a mixture of mangoes, apricots, prunes, apples, peaches, pears, cranberries, currants and raisins
about 4 or 5 Tbsp candied ginger
a little more than 2/3 cup good sherry
grated zest of one orange
2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
a little more than 3/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 heaping tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
a little fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup walnuts, or a bit more, lightly toasted (stir often in a dry pan over med-low until they smell/taste toasty)

Cut the larger fruits into smaller pieces. The pieces of fruit in the bread can be as large or as small as you like. Place all the fruits in a saucepan with the ginger, sherry and orange zest. Bring this to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat, cover and let it steep for about 30 minutes.

Butter and flour a loaf pan. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, then add the egg, then the milk.

Combine the flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet mix. Fold the mixture together, being careful not to overmix. Stir in the walnuts, the macerated fruit and its liquid. Spoon or pour the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Wrap the bread in plastic or foil once it's completely cooled. It tastes better if you let it sit for a day before slicing. It is especially good toasted and spread with butter or cream cheese.



four photos behind the cut )
I'm trying to decide what to do for dinner tonight--fresh pumpkin ravioli drizzled with butter, toasted walnuts and fried sage, or hot and sour pumpkin soup with lemongrass and chive cream? Or something else entirely? Ah, delicious decisions...

Bread recipes as requested:

Sherried Fruit Bread )

Cheese and Herb Festbier Bread )
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