It is still January and because I don’t want to be the reason behind someone’s wavering resolve, I am not going to tell you about the doughnuts I made on New Year’s Eve (yet). But I thought it might be okay to mention this berawecka?
Berawecka is a specialty cake/bread from the Alsace region of France, traditionally made around Christmas. If you do not know it, you are probably a) not from the Alsace and b) do not have a personal French chef. Me neither, but luckily for all of us Martha Stewart has a personal French chef and is quite generous with his old family recipes.
Pierre Schaedelin’s berawecka is a slightly enriched bread, so studded with all imaginable kinds of dried fruits and nuts that it is a small wonder the meagre amount of dough manages to hold it all together. The fruits are first marinated in cherry brandy (kirsch) and winter spices are added to the dough. It is a festive bread that nevertheless feels quite wholesome thanks to all the fruits and nuts. I baked the berawecka for a brunch with friends and it was lovely sliced thinly and paired with different kinds of cheese and with this caramel apple jam. But I think it would also be a great, nourishing treat to take on a winter hike and eat amidst a wood covered with snow, holding the slices in stiff, mittened fingers. Now I’m dreaming: so far, our winter has been entirely devoid of snow. But if it does snows, I will bake this bread again and go on that hike, I swear!
Since baking the berawecka, I did a little research around the internet and found out that the traditional berawecka is a bit different: it is “non levé” (unleavened) and contains quite a bit more sugar – more of a cake than a bread. It’s probably delicious, too, but I prefer this version which is mostly naturally sweet.
Note: You can obviously vary what kind of dried fruits you use, it is certainly not necessary to use each and every one stipulated in the recipe, just make sure the total amount is the same. Having said that, I think it is nice to include dried pears, since they are probably what gave the bread its name: “beera” means pear in Alsatian and “wecka” means cake or small bread. It is also possible to use other kinds of brandy: quince brandy or plum brandy are all great.
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Entertaining
Makes 2 loaves
135g (1 cup) dried currants
150 g (1 cup) dark raisins
75 g (½ cup) diced dried pear
75 g (½ cup) diced dried figs
75 g (½ cup) diced dried apricots
50 g (¼ cup) sugar
125 ml (½ cup) kirsch (cherry brandy)
1 teaspoon dry yeast
80 ml (¼ cup) warm water
275 g (2 to 2 ¼ cup) flour
125 ml (½ cup) milk
30 g (2 tbsp) butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground aniseed
50 g (½ cup) slivered almonds
110 g (1 cup, 4 oz) walnuts, roughly chopped
40 g (¼ cup) candied lemon peel, diced
40 g (¼ cup) candied orange peel, diced
Combine all the dried fruits with the sugar and the kirsch in a bowl. Cover and let macerate for a day at room temperature.
Next day, make your dough. In a large bowl, dissolve the dried yeast in warm water and let stand until bubbles start to form, about 10 minutes. Add half the flour, warm milk, melted butter, salt and spices. Stir everything until well combined. Add as much flour as needed to make a soft dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes.
Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour (the time depends on the temperature of the room).
Transfer the dough into another large bowl and add the dried fruit, nuts and candied peels. Knead until the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a fat log, about 30 cm (12 inches) long. Place logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Let rise for about 30 minutes more. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bake the breads until firm and pretty dark, about 45 – 55 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Beraweka keeps at least 3 days at room temperature, wrapped in plastic.