Thursday, February 05, 2015

Apricots and Almonds



Fragrances are often a memory trigger, especially food aromas. From now on, warm apricots and almonds will remind me of the trip to bury my Mom. I knew that we would be getting in late and might want something easy for breakfast, so I baked an apricot almond bread to take with us. I could smell it in the car on our way to the airport, even though it was inside my carry-on bag. I even ate some of it, pulled roughly from the end of the loaf and eaten with my airplane coffee when I felt the need of a snack. It was wonderful. The morning after we arrived I had a slice, toasted, with some coffee before getting ready to get out the door. It was comforting and the heat from the toaster brought out the fragrance of apricot even stronger.

It was an emotion filled time. I grieved over the loss of not only my Mom, but of the place she held in the family and how her home was the true home place for so many. We had no choice but to begin taking things out of the house, which was a jolt, even though expected. One day before 2015 winds down someone else will buy it and the house will start the next chapter in its life. It is the place of my childhood, filled with mental snapshots of long ago excitement and disappointments, birthdays and Christmases, books and baking, puzzles and plantings. Time to bid childhood places good bye, too. I hope that someone with a young family moves in. It's a good house for a family. My family grew together there and we held together these past few days, too, sharing photos and memories, exchanging hugs and stories, supporting each other as we buried Mom with Dad as the air was filled with drizzle which mingled with my tears. On either side of me, solid with love, was my Sweetie and my wonderful daughter. Even in my sadness I know that I'm truly blessed.

Hope you try this bread and hope it evokes good memories for you the next time you smell almonds and apricots.

Apricot Almond Braid
a variation on the Autumn Festival Bread in The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler

This is a rich and elegant bread, flecked with dried apricots and sliced almonds. It has a texture similar to a brioche and is wonderful toasted.

Makes 1 loaf

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (105 – 115 degrees F)
2 ¼ - 3 cups unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup diced dried apricots
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup warm milk (105 – 115 degrees F)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sliced almonds

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Combine 1 ½ cups flour, salt, nutmeg, diced dried apricots and sugar in mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Mix together the warm milk, egg and almond extract. Add the milk mixture, yeast mixture and butter to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk – about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Flatten dough and sprinkle half of the sliced almonds over it. Roll up like a jelly roll, then fold the two ends towards the center. Flatten dough again. Again sprinkle on the sliced almonds, using them up. Again roll up like a jelly roll and fold the two ends towards the center. Knead dough about ten turns to fully incorporate the sliced almonds. Divide the dough into thirds. Make three ropes. Braid on a greased, parchment covered, or silicon mat covered baking sheet. Be sure to tuck the ends under.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double – about 30 -45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and return the loaf to the oven. Bake an additional 30 – 35 minutes or until done. Check at 20 minutes and cover lightly with aluminum foil if loaf looks like it is getting too dark or the nuts are burning.

Cool on a wire rack. If desired, drizzle with Confectioners Sugar Icing and sprinkle on some additional sliced almonds for decoration.

Confectioners Sugar Icing: Mix together 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and 1-2 tablespoons milk. 


3 comments :

Baking Soda said...

What a beautiful write up. Take care

Katie said...

That looks a lovely bread and what a lovely aromo to attribute to your mum

tanita✿davis said...

What a precious and evocative memory. I don't think I have any strong smell-memories yet - but you never know until they happen.

I hope you are well.