Sometimes Fanny Cradock makes suggestions that are widely applicable to a range of different situations. She'll say that such and such a cake is suitable for rustling up quickly perhaps when so and so just happen to pop round unexpectedly. Other menus are carefully crafted to stun the neighbours that you never really liked very much, convince uncertain bosses that promotion is the best option or to dazzle old chums on a heaving buffet table when entertaining. From time to time though she suggests something that's just so specific it's hard to imagine anyone thinking 'oh yes, that's just what I've been waiting for.' The final 'bread' in this partwork is just that - apparently it's simply perfect for when you are entertaining Dutch friends at Easter and are struggling to think what to serve them for breakfast. Always a dilemma.
The answer is Dutch Easterbread. or Oesterbröd. There can't really be many perfect choices for this situation. It's fortunate that Fanny herself happened to be in Amsterdam one Easter Sunday to taste this. Fanny doesn't disclose if any other traditional Dutch delicacies were taken on that particular trip. She does admit to having an 'overwhelming compulsion' to eat almond paste and crystallised fruits though, so was naturally drawn to this traditional Dutch bread which is filled with a fruity marzipan-y concoction. In Fannys mind, it would be too shameful to serve something from our own fair isle I imagine.
This recipe starts off with a standard batch of white bread dough. While it's proving, get to work whipping up some butter until it is 'creamily soft'. In Fanny's favourite kitchen implement, a roomy bowl, mix together ground almonds, icing sugar (sifted of course), glacé cherries (I've got some lovely retro-tastic multi-coloured ones), raisins and finely diced candied Angelica. It's all Fannys favourite things. Angelica has such an unusual taste, I love it. It's a favourite botanical in gin, which is probably why I love it so much! It's long overdue for a comeback in it's own right though I reckon. This nostalgic mix is bound together with an egg white to make a fairly firm paste.
Once proved, Fanny says to roll the dough out to a rectangular shape and spread it with the softened whipped butter. Fanny forms her fruity paste into a 'sausage' and rolls it up so that it's inside the dough. Fanny is very particular about the decoration, I'm guessing you wouldn't want your Easter breakfast guests from the Netherlands to be sniggering behind your back at your lack of authentic detail. So, I do as I am told and score the top of the loaf with 'slanty' cuts about 1/4 inch apart all the way down. A quick egg wash and a sprinkle with bashed up loaf sugar (or just ready bashed caster sugar) and it's ready to bake. Just 'until it's ready' - Fanny clearly thinks I'm now able to judge when this will be.
Having helped us to make several Cradock-style loaves now, Fanny is concerned about storage. She thinks it's vitally important, especially if you are new to the job. For busy women (and presumably men) there is 'no mortal use' in caring sufficiently about your families health (or perhaps your Dutch overnight guests) to create 'crusty crusts and an edible crumb with an absolute absence of artificial bleaching agents', unless the resulting beautiful loaves last several days. Fanny's recommendation is simple, once cooled wrap them tightly in ordinary kitchen foil. Then, even if your Dutch guests outstay their welcome and are still popping up for breakfast 2, 3, 4 or even 5 days after Easter, you will be serving them perfectly edible bread on each occasion. If you really want to see them 'rejoice' when they spy their breakfast tray, the trick is to serve this loaf not only with wheels of butter, but slices of cheese and ham rolled up. Oh, they'll be thrilled! Do let me know if you ever have guests from Holland over Easter and you try this. Or if like me, you don't, but simply love a massive slice of fruity, sweet almond bread.