I may have visited the Netherlands twice, roamed around the Dutch-influenced areas of Belgium as many times and even have Dutch friends but, until recently, I’d never tried Dutch Frisian sugar bread. A specialty of the northern Dutch province of Friesland, suikerbrood or sugarbread features spices and a generous amount of the large, coarse, stark white sugar known as pearl sugar.
As you might expect from a food with “sugar” in its name, this is a sweet bread. Yet, I wouldn’t call it overly saccharine. Eaten at breakfast in the Netherlands, it has a warm, honeyed flavor on par with Danish pastries and cinnamon rolls. When I compare it to such cloying breakfast staples as syrup-soaked pancakes, waffles and French toast, I find this bread to be mild and pleasantly sweet.
Although not part of the pantheon of European Easter breads, Frisian sugar bread would be a fitting addition to any Easter brunch. For those abstaining from sweets or baked goods during Lent, it will be a delicious way to break these fasts. For everyone else it’ll be a scrumptious addition to the holiday feast.
FRISIAN SUGAR BREAD
Makes 2 loaves
2 packets dry active yeast
1 3/4 cups milk, warmed
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
8 ounces pearl sugar
Grease a large bowl with canola oil.
Place the yeast and warm milk in a small bowl and allow the yeast to dissolve, about 3 minutes. As the yeast is dissolving, stir the flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, egg and melted butter and set aside.
Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the milk into it. Stir the flour and milk together until roughly mixed. Add the butter mixture and stir again until combined.
Using either your hands or an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, until a soft, warm dough forms.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp dishcloth, put it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
Toss together the pearl sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Using either your hands or your mixer’s dough hook, knead the pearl sugar into the dough. (I find that hands usually work better than a dough hook here but the choice is yours.)
Butter the bottom and sides of 2 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Divide the sugar-dotted dough in half and, using your hands, shape into two balls. Place the balls on the floured surface and press each out into a large (about 12 inches in length) rectangle. Taking one of the long ends, roll up the dough into a fat rectangle. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place the dough rolls into the buttered pans. Place the pans in a warm spot, cover them with a damp, clean dishcloth and allow them to rise for 1 hour.
Place the pans in the preheated oven and bake the bread for 30 minutes, checking after 20 minutes to ensure that the tops aren’t browning too quickly. If the tops look dark, cover them with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.
Remove the loaves from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes in the pans. Remove them from the pans and cool the loaves completely on wire racks. Slice and serve with butter and coffee.