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Apricot Bread with Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts, also know as filberts, are popular in French and Italian baking. These round nuts encased in a hard shell have a delightful crunch and rich, buttery flavor that shine in quick loaf breads, especially in combination with dried fruits. Hazelnuts have a thin inner skin that can be removed, if desired. Bake the nuts on a baking sheet in a preheated 325°F oven, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. While the nuts are still warm, wrap in a coarse-textured kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins.

Ingredients:

  • 22 dried apricot halves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted, or hazelnut oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, chopped

Directions:

Put the apricots and currants in a bowl and add the boiling water. Set aside at room temperature and let cool to lukewarm, about 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour four 6-by-3 1/2-inch loaf pans or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter, eggs and buttermilk. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the apricots and currants with their liquid and the hazelnuts. Beat until just blended and the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the tops are browned and firm and the loaves begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, 45 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf should come out clean. Immediately unmold the loaves onto wire racks and let cool completely. Wrap the loaves tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 4 days. Cut into thick slices and serve. Makes four 6-by-3 1/2-inch loaves.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins, by Beth Hensperger (Simon & Schuster, 2003).