This tart and slightly sweet fresh apricot yeast bread made with dried blueberries, is perfect for an afternoon coffee or tea break.
I’m known for my impulsive grocery store buys and it only comes becomes more impulsive as summer fruit starts to appear at the stores. Blueberries and apricots are the first things I start to buy when they appear, and all of sudden I have too much fruit and not enough time to eat it all before it goes bad. This is when I start baking up my apricot blueberry coffee cake, apricot, cherry and plum pie or my blueberry Swedish cake. But lately I’ve been diving deep into bread baking and I knew I wanted to make some sort of yeasted bread with the apricots. A simple modified brioche bread and I have this braided apricot yeast bread with dried blueberries.
How do you make this bread?
Making this bread looks more complicated that it is! There’s no complicated braiding, even if it looks that way. It’s just laying strip of dough over strips of dough.
First make an enriched dough, similar to a brioche bread. This means you combine some melted butter with milk and add in dry yeast to dissolve. Stir in an egg, vanilla and a dash of almond extract to the liquid.
Finish making the dough by mixing and kneading flour and a little bit of sugar with the liquid. Let it rise until double.
While the dough is rising, make the apricot filling by chopping up the apricots and mixing it with dried blueberries, some spices, vanilla and a little honey. Set it aside to let the apricots become juicy and for the dried blueberries to soak up some of the liquid.
Once the dough has risen, this is where it gets fun! You roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle. Then you mix a tablespoon of cornstarch into the filling and spread it into the center of the dough.
Cut the sides of the dough into 1-inch wide strips, and then lay those strips over each other, forming a braided bread.
Move the whole thing to a baking sheet. Let it rise again until the dough is puffy, then brush with an egg wash, sprinkle with decorative sugar, and bake.
What is Swedish pearl sugar and can I substitute it?
I use Swedish pearl sugar on top of this bread, which is sometimes called nib sugar. You can find it at specialty stores, occasionally at Ikea and online (<– affiliate link). Swedish pearl sugar is white flaky sugar that doesn’t easily dissolve. It is used on top of Swedish cinnamon roll and cardamon knots, as well as a decorative topping for a number of baked goods.
Some folks substitute crushed sugar cubes for pearl sugar. But you can also use regular white sugar, sparkling sugar or turbinado sugar (sometimes called Sugar in the Raw) as a substitute if you don’t feel like buying it, or tracking it down.
Don’t confuse Swedish pearl sugar with Belgian pearl sugar. Belgian style pearl sugar is large chunks of pearl sugar and isn’t meant for decorative use like the Swedish style. You can use Belgian style sugar, but you should crush the Belgian sugar into much smaller pieces before using. Just place the Belgian pearl sugar in a freezer Ziploc bag and then crush it with a rolling pin or heavy skillet. Belgian pearl sugar is most often used in Belgian Liege waffles.
What can I substitute for the dried blueberries?
I use dry blueberries in this recipe because dried fruit will help absorb some of the liquid that the fresh apricots will shed and the intense flavor of dried blueberries plays well with the tangy apricot.
That said, if you want to, you can use another dried fruit in place of the dried blueberries. Some suggestions for substitutions include:
- Golden raisins
- Dried cherries
- Dried cranberries
- Chopped dried prunes
- Chopped dried figs
- Chopped dried apricots (for an even more intense apricot flavor)
I haven’t tested this recipe with fresh blueberries, but if you do try substituting in fresh blueberries for the dried blueberries, I would recommend increasing the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons to help absorb the liquid from the blueberries. If you try the recipe this way, please leave a note in the comments and I’ll add it to this section for other folks to see!
What can I substitute for the fresh apricots?
Fresh apricots are very seasonal, and thus not always available. Feel free to swap out another chopped fresh stone fruit like pitted cherries, plums, peaches or nectarines for the fresh apricots.
You can also try swapping out dried apricots for the fresh apricots. Place the dried apricots and blueberries in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling over them until just barely covered. Let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes to plump up. Drain the liquid, reserving 2 tablespoons of it. Then chop the apricots into 1/2-inch chunks. Cool the liquid and add the 2 tablespoons into the filling mix, along with the remaining ingredients.
Bread Frequently Asked Questions
This recipe uses active dry yeast, but you can substitute rapid rise or instant yeast in it place. You can either use less rapid rise or instant yeast (1 3/4 teaspoons instead of the 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast) or use the same amount (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 package) and expect the dough to rise and double in size faster.
When using instant or rapid rise yeast, you can add the yeast directly in with the dry ingredients, with the flour. You don’t need to dissolve it first in the wet ingredients.
Yes! You can knead the dough by hand, but keep in mind your dough might end up a little more dry than if used a stand mixer.
Mix the dough ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until a shaggy dough forms and most of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Dump the contents of the bowl onto a clean surface. Using the heel of your hands, fold and press down on the dough, repeating this movement, while rotating the dough 90° with every press. Continue to knead the dough, occasionally dipping your hands in flour, to keep the dough from sticking.
The dough will initially seem sticky, so don’t add more flour to the dough itself, just dust your hands. The dough should firm up and smooth out as you knead. But if you do need to add more flour, do it 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should be smooth and elastic by the time you’re done kneading, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Store this bread at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Yes, you can freeze this bread! Slice the bread, and then store it in an airtight container or resealable Ziploc bag for up to 2 months. Defrost it on you countertop for an hour before serving, or warm it up directly from the freezer in your toaster oven or oven, for about 10 minutes at 350°F.
If you like this yeast bread recipe, check out these other bread recipes
- Sourdough Banana Bread
- Pumpkin Monkey Bread with Chocolate
- Pistachio Cinnamon Rolls
- Parker House Rolls
- Potato Rolls
Apricot Yeast Bread with Dried Blueberries
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 280 g
- 1/4 cup white sugar 50 g
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 ounces apricots about 6 to 7 medium ones, chopped about 2 1/4 cups
- 1/4 cup dried blueberries 45 g
- 1 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons Swedish pearl sugar or white sugar
- Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, or on the stovetop in a small saucepan. Once melted, add the milk to measuring cup or saucepan.
- Stir in the active dry yeast to the liquid until it dissolves. The liquid will start to lump up. That’s normal. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract (if using) to the liquid. Again, don’t worry if the liquid looks lumpy like cottage cheese.
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeasty liquid to the dry ingredients, making sure to scrape out any lumps as well. Turn the mixer on slow and let it mix the ingredients until they form a soft dough. You might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Increase the speed of the mixer and knead the dough until it is smooth and supple, about 5 minutes on medium speed. The dough will be tacky but it shouldn’t be sticky or limp. If the dough is too wet to work with, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can handle the dough properly.
- Lightly grease a bowl with cooking oil, then gather the dough into a ball and place the rough side down into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise. Let the dough rise until double in size, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
- While the dough is rising, making the filling by pitting the apricots and then cutting them up into 1/2-inch chunks. Place the apricot pieces in a medium-sized bowl and add the blueberries, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg reserving the cornstarch for later. Stir until ingredients are combined, then cover the bowl and set aside while the dough rises.
- Once the dough has risen, put a piece of parchment paper down on a surface and dump the dough onto the paper. Roll the dough out into a 10 x 13-inch rectangle. Using the parchment paper, move the dough to a rimmed baking sheet.
- Take the filling and stir in the cornstarch. Spoon the filling into the center of the dough, leaving a generous 3-inch border all the way around.
- Cut the dough into 1-inch thick strips on both sides of the long edge of the dough around the filling. Don’t cut under the filling, just start cutting at where the filling edges. Make sure there are an equal number of strips on both sides of the dough.
- Take the bottom strip and flip it up and over the filling, making a “U” shape on top of the filling. Repeat with the other end.
- Now stretch one side of the dough strip over the filling, and do the same with the other side.
- Repeat, alternating the dough strip from side to side, overlapping each strip, making it look like a braid.Once all the strips are folded over and the filling is sealed in, cover the bread with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes, or until the dough looks a little puffy (it won’t have risen or doubled much, just gotten a little puffy is all). About 30 minutes into letting the dough rise again, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Once the time is over, beat the egg yolk with the water. Then brush the egg wash over the bread.
- Sprinkle the Swedish pearl sugar or white sugar all over the top of the bread.Bake in the top 3rd of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown.Let the bread cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move the bread to a wire cooling rack, by lifting up the parchment paper and using it as a “sling” to move the bread. Serve warm or at room temperature.