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Krentenbrood, when translated from Dutch, literally means currant bread. This intensely sweet, dense bread contains eggs, butter, flour, and plenty of dried fruit, making it a popular dessert or snack for the winter months. Many Dutch families serve krentenbrood during the winter holidays, gifting it to each other the same way many North Americans give fruitcake. Those who are tired of traditional holiday fruitcakes might give this delicious Northern European bread a try.
Most krentenbrood recipes only call for currants or raisins, but some include a very wide variety of dried fruits, nuts, and flavorings. Dried apricots are a common variation, as are dried cherries and cranberries. Dates and figs may be included in modern recipes, but older recipes generally don’t list these fruits because they’re chiefly subtropical. Dutch bakers in centuries past likely would not have had access to them, so those who want to make traditional krentenbrood should stick to fruits that can thrive in Northern Europe.
Other variations include the use of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. These ingredients add extra texture and richness to the bread, often making it dense enough to eat as a light meal. Candied lemon and orange peel may also be listed in some recipes, along with fresh citrus zest or citrus juice. Citrus fruits may or may not be viewed as traditional ingredients because very early bakers of krentenbrood may not have had citrus, but these fruits ripen during the subtropical winter months. When trade became global, Dutch bakers may have been able to store some of these fruits for their holiday baking.
A krentenbrood recipe generally starts with about 5 parts flour, 2 parts milk, and 3 parts either currants or raisins. Some bakers like to use both currants and raisins, adding about 2 parts currants and 1 part raisins. Those using candied peels, nuts, and other dried fruits may add them to taste. The more additions the dough contains, the denser it will be, but baking times should not be affected. Next comes 1 egg and about 3/16 part each of melted butter and sugar. Many bakers use superfine sugar, but ordinary sugar also works well.
The baker should typically add one packet of yeast to about .25 part of warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes before adding it to the krentenbrood batter. When the batter is mixed, it should rise for about 20 minutes before the baker punches it down, and then allows it to rise again. At this point, the krentenbrood may be baked until it is golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the center of it comes out clean.