1 1/2 C. mixed candied fruit
1 C. golden raisins
6 T. rum (or 6 T. water with 1/2 t. rum flavor)
1 C. slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. (1 stick) butter, plus 1/4 C. ( 1/2 stick) very soft butter, plus 1/2 C. (1 stick) melted butter, divided
1/3 C. plus 1/2 t. sugar, divided
1/2 t. salt
1/4 C. warm water
3 ( 1/4-oz.) packets active dry yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/2 C. flour, divided
1 t. vanilla
Grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 C. powdered sugar
Optional, for icing: 1 1/2 to 2 T. milk and 1/4 t. vanilla
In a shallow dish, soak the candied fruit and raisins in the rum, covering the dish but stirring through occasionally, at least 30 minutes or overnight. Toast the almond pieces in a frying pan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to color and become fragrant, about 7 minutes. Pour them out of the pan and set aside.
Heat the 3/4 cup of milk, one stick of butter and the 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan, stirring, just until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large bowl; set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, put the warm water in a cup, sprinkle the yeast over and stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Wait about 5 minutes, until the yeast is foaming actively, then stir the yeast mixture into the warm milk mixture. Stir in the eggs and 3 cups of the flour and stir well. Add the teaspoon of vanilla, lemon zest, the 1/2 stick of softened butter cut into several pieces, the set-aside nuts and fruit (and any liquid remaining with the fruit), and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour.
Knead a few minutes on a floured board or in the bowl, adding flour if necessary, until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Wash and oil the bowl, turn dough in the bowl to oil all over, cover loosely and set in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Grease two baking sheets. Divide dough in two and (one at a time, working on one of the prepared baking sheets) roll or pat each half into an oval about 12 by 8 inches. Brush each liberally with melted butter and fold in half the long way (making 12-inch-long rounded loaves) and pinch around the edge to seal. Brush liberally with melted butter, cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour, preheating the oven to 350° F. near the end of the rise.
Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaves are golden and a knife cut near the center shows no dampness in the middle. Brush liberally with melted butter and set aside to cool, brushing with butter several more times, until the butter is used up and loaves are fully cool.
If not glazing, sprinkle liberally with the powdered sugar.
If keeping before serving (up to a week), wrap tightly in plastic or foil. If glazing (do this only before serving; don't wrap glazed loaves), combine the powdered sugar, the 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of milk and the 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and drizzle over the loaves.
Makes 2 loaves.
The kind and quantity of fruit and nuts are just suggestions. Feel free to change them. Note that time is needed for soaking fruit and two risings of dough.
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