This sweet braided yeast bread delivers big holiday flavors.
No matter your skill level as a home baker, you can make Eggnog and Fruit Bread for a holiday breakfast, brunch or to give as a gift. It comes together in less than half an hour and bakes for 25 minutes. You can work on Christmas cards or wrapping presents while the bread raises and waits for the oven. And the eggnog-flavored glaze goes beyond the typical sugary finish.
Eggnog has been a part of my family’s Christmas food traditions as far back as I can remember, thanks to Dad. He loved this holiday drink—with or without the brandy—and stopped by Bailey Farm Dairy at least once a week for a half gallon. I loved to see that glass bottle in our refrigerator! Although the dairy that once sat on the corner of Meramec Street and Gravois Avenue in south St. Louis is gone (Grbic Bosnian restaurant occupies that space now), I still enjoy eggnog during the holidays, and I think of Dad with every cup.
Thank goodness we only see this rich, decadent drink for about a month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because it’s far too fattening to enjoy year round. However, I have no use for the low-fat variety, which is like drinking nutmeg-flavored skim milk. Don’t bake with it or drink it; enjoy the real stuff and just go for longer walks in December.
Anyway, eggnog bread has been in Mom’s recipe box for decades, and I honestly don’t know why I never baked until recently. Maybe I thought it would be too complicated; who wants to add another task to a packed holiday list?
But this bread really is simple to make. The eggnog—milk, sugar, eggs, spices—delivers lots of flavors with one ingredient and speeds up the prep time. It’s mixed in almost no time, and it only raises twice—once in greased bowl for 60 minutes and another as a braided loaf on a greased sheet pan for 30 minutes.
It also reminds me a bit of German stollen because dried fruit is nestled in a sweat yeast bread that topped with sugar, and that appeals to my culinary roots. So, let’s get baking!
For this recipe, you’ll need:
3 cups flour, divided
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 package (¼ ounce) active dry yeast
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1¼ cups eggnog
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
To whip up the glaze, you’ll need:
½ cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
2 tablespoons eggnog
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of nutmeg
Get a large mixing bowl out and to that, add 1½ cups of flour, salt, sugar, yeast and nutmeg. Mix with a spoon and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the eggnog and butter over medium heat to 120—130 degrees F; the butter doesn’t have to melt all the way. Add this to the flour mixture and beat on low until moistened using an electric mixer. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
Using a mixing spoon, stir in the dried fruit and remaining flour to make a soft dough ball. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes).
Place dough in a greased bowl (I just sprayed the bowl I mixed it in with non-stick spray) and turn it over once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles (about an hour).
(Now would be good time to finish decorating the tree or tackling those holiday cards.)
After an hour, punch the dough down and cut it into thirds. Roll each piece into a 16-inch rope. Remove the dough ropes onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and braid the ropes, sealing the top and bottom ends. Cover and let loaf rise for about 30 minutes (it should nearly double in size).
(Finish the holiday task you were working on an hour ago.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and bake the braid for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Remove from the sheet pan to a wire rack to cool.
After bread has completely cooled (I waited 30 minutes), stir together the confectioner’s sugar, eggnog and vanilla. You should have a glaze that will easily drizzle. If you feel it needs more liquid, add a few drops of eggnog. Decorate the braided loaf with glaze and sprinkle with nutmeg.
This bread turned out surprisingly well. The eggnog and nutmeg really come through, but I think next time, I will double the amount of dried fruit. If you wanted to add nuts, I think almonds or pecans would work here; just finely chop them. I also cut back on the powdered sugar that was in the original Taste of Home recipe Mom saved all those years.
Eggnog and Fruit Bread would make a beautiful addition to your Christmas breakfast or brunch table. It’s a thoughtful gift, too (I mean, who doesn’t likely freshly made bread?); place it on a new cutting board, include a decorative knife, wrap in cellophane and tie a holiday bow around the top. It’s also great to simply share a slice and a cup of tea with a loved one at the end of a busy day while you admire your Christmas tree.
I hope you’ll try this holiday braid; let me know how yours turned out by leaving a comment below or posting a photo on the Facebook page @threewomeninthekitchen.