Christmas bread

Christmas Bread

A friend from Trinidad introduced me to my first taste of coconut sweet bread around the holidays. Before bringing me a slice, she described it as “a cake with fruit in it”, and said that her mother possessed a ‘sweet hand’, meaning only certain Caribbean folks had the special ability to turn out a perfect sweet bread. My mind’s eye envisioned the dark brown, heavy fruitcake my grandmother foisted on me every Christmas as a child. Much to my happy surprise, coconut sweet bread is the exact opposite — light in color, and not at all heavy. I call my version ‘Christmas Bread’ because it was a perfect treat on Christmas morning with a cup of hot tea — and I plan to make a tradition out of it!

4 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (6 ounces) golden raisins
1/2 cup diced candied fruit [AKA mixed peel]
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, halved
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sugar

2 large (5-quart) mixing bowls
measuring cups and spoons
sifter or mesh strainer
food processor
2 loaf pans, greased and floured
1 small (1-quart) pot

1. Set oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Sift mixture twice — half a cup at a time — into second bowl.
2. Pulse coconut in processor until texture is very fine — about 30 seconds. Add to bowl.
3. Add sugar, all fruits, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir until fruit is coated.
4. In empty bowl, combine butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
5. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in wet ingredients.
6. Wet your hands slightly and mix all ingredients together until well combined. [Do not knead.]
7. Divide dough among prepared loaf pans and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean — about 55 minutes.
8. For GLAZE: Simmer 3 tablespoons sugar with water in pot over low heat until sugar dissolves. Drizzle syrup over loaves, then sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over tops and bake 3 minutes.

• When sliced, the sweet bread will be slightly crumbly, similar to a cornbread texture.

1 hour, 30 minutes

2 loaves

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