Julekage is a delicious, sweet, aromatic Christmas bread, traditionally served in Denmark and Norway. It is a type of yeast-leavened bread, flecked with dried fruit and glacé fruit. Do not feel obliged to use the dried fruit combination I used, alter it to your own preference. Dried cranberries and pineapple are a marvellous combination with glacé cherries.
As for the cardamom, although many Julekage breads do have it, if you do not like cardamom, simply omit it, it will still be a fine bread. It will still be lovely with a bit of butter on top, served warm with a nice cup of hot tea. The bread is richer than a regular sweet bread, it is a Christmas treat, and it is only once a year, so it is worth it.
For the bread
450 grams white bread flour
2 teaspoons dried yeast
250 grams dried (and glacé) fruit
120 ml warm milk
100 grams butter
50 grams brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
1 egg white, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons sugar
Add the yeast and sugar to the milk, mix well and leave it for 10 minutes in a warm spot, to activate the yeast. While the yeast is activating, sift the flour in a large bowl and zest the lemon. Make a well in the centre of the sifted flour, add the yeast, melted butter, lemon zest, vanilla and cardamom and the eggs you whisked slightly. Start mixing the batter, first with a wooden spoon, then with your hands, until an ever so slightly sticky dough forms. Depending on the type of flour you use, you may need to add another tablespoon of flour. The dough mustn't be too firm. Lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour and gently knead the dough for 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Grease a large bowl, put the dough in, cover it and put it in a warm place until doubled in size. It should take about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the temperature of the room. After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a slightly floured surface and gently knead it, to release the air. Flatten it with the palms of your hands and sprinkle on the roughly chopped dried and glacé fruit. I used dried pineapple and papaya, and candied mango; feel free to use fruit you like. Gently knead for a few minutes, to distribute the fruit evenly. Shape it into a loaf, put it in a greased loaf pan (13x23 cm, 9x5") and place the pan in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size again.
Using a very sharp knife, slash the loaf down the centre and generously brush it with the glaze. Sprinkle on the sugar. Bake it in a preheated oven, at 160°C (320°F) for about 40-45 minutes. Make sure the loaf doesn't get too dark, because it will be dry and crumbly. Check it around 35 minutes, or even a bit earlier, and if it looks too dark, cover it with a piece of aluminium foil and keep baking until completely done.