Today, a friend’s granddaughter was born. This morning, someone drove his baby boy to the hospital to remove a brain tumor. This afternoon, a friend’s faithful companion died. Today, someone celebrated being alive. I knew I’d spend the day entrenched in my kitchen bomb shelter, under the pretext of baking, but truly hiding from life’s bittersweet highs and lows. I reserved this weekend to unclutter my brain – sorting and classifying – following a week of heady realizations. However, by 10:00 a.m., I opted to linger with my messy meditations and concentrate instead on distraction through less-weighty things. So, rather than tackle life’s complexities, I delight in the simple phenomenon of dry yeast: inert-looking sand that vigorously bounds to life with the coaxing of a sprinkling of sugar and warm milk, transforming flour and water into bread. Yeast bread can’t be rushed; its requirement for patient tending diverts my brain’s workings for a while.
- ½ cup raisins
- ¼ cup kirsch or brandy
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon
- 1 pkg. dry yeast
- ½ cup butter, softened + more for pan
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- 20 to 30 whole almonds
- ¼ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped**
- Powdered sugar
- Heat raisins in kirsch for 1 minute in microwave. Set aside.
- Heat milk for 1 minute until milk is between 107 and 110 degrees. Stir in 1 T. of sugar and yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- In stand mixer, cream butter and remaining sugar. Add eggs, remaining milk, almond extract, and salt and mix well. Incorporate yeast mixture. Combine flour and almond flour and incorporate. Switch to a dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes.
- Cover dough with a dishcloth and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
- Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. Place almonds at the bottom of the pan in a decorative pattern. I use a bit of butter to help them stay in place. Drain raisins and combine with orange peel. Work the raisins and peel into dough.
- Spoon dough evenly into pan. Smooth dough, cover with dishcloth, and let rise again in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until dough is about an inch below the rim.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Bake in oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Invert, remove pan and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
**I prefer homemade to store bought versions.