My childhood memories of Kletzenbrot, an Austrian Christmas fruit bread, are somewhat limited as I was never a huge fan. The Kletzenbrot (which translates as ‘dried pear bread’) I was typically presented with was always just a little bit too full on for me, too fruit-laden and too overpowering in terms of spices. Kletzenbrot of this kind consists of a fruit-only centre with just a thin layer of dough covering the moist, squidgy mixture. I like a bread with plenty of dough, where the fruit plays an important but supporting role, hence the reason for my dislike! Baking bread at home has allowed me to create my own version of the traditional classic Kletzenbrot recipe. Here is my take on Kletzenbrot, the way I like it.
A variety of fruit is commonly used for making Austrian Kletzenbrot including dried pears, figs, dates and raisins. I’ve always found that the dried pears are a little bit lost in this mix and I wanted their taste to take centre stage. Kletzenbrot should be all about the Kletzen – don’t you agree?
Therefore, this is a Kletzenbrot recipe for purists – chunky bits of dried pear (no other fruit) baked into a lightly spiced rye and wheat dough. Try my version of Kletzenbrot – it’s a lovely fruit bread all year round.
Where to buy Kletzen?
I usually buy Kletzen in a local market in my home town in Austria. These are different from standard dried pears as Kletzen are made from specific old pear varieties which are grown on Austrian farms specifically for drying. These pears have a firm peel and pulp and a high sugar content but are not usually consumed raw. Instead, they are dried with the peel. If you would like to get the real deal but you don’t have access to an Austrian farmers’ market, you can order Kletzen online from this Austrian specialties shop.
Recipe for my Austrian Kletzenbrot
My Kletzenbrot is made with a yeast dough and, although there are quite a few steps involved, you can complete the bread in an afternoon.
If you prefer more fruit in your loaf, you can easily increase the fruit content. Use the same dough quantities but with more fruit (and nuts) to achieve a fruitier loaf.
325g water (use the water from the fruit and nut mix)
For the dough shell
100g wheat flour
50g rye flour
2g dried yeast
A pinch of salt
For the filling
250g dried pears, chopped into small pieces
50g hazelnuts, cut into halves
3g potato starch
How to make Kletzenbrot
Place the fruit and nuts into a pot, add the rum and enough water to cover the fruit and nut mixture.
Boil up briefly and simmer on a very low heat for 45 minutes.
Strain and keep the liquid so you can use the fruity water for the dough.
Prepare the main dough using the flours, yeast, salt, ground spices and the fruity water. Add more water to make up the required quantity if you don’t have enough sieved water.
Knead for about 10 minutes, then add the fruit and nut mix until evenly distributed.
Place the main dough into a large bowl, cover and leave to rest for about 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.
In the meantime, prepare the dough for the outer layer (see ingredients for the dough shell) by combining the flours, yeast, salt and water.
Knead for 10 minutes, then place the dough into a small bowl and leave to rest for about 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.
Go back to the main dough once risen, punch down and divide the dough into two equal parts.
Shape each part into a flattish oval loaf and place them on two baking trays lined with baking paper.
Take the dough you prepared for the outer layer of the loaf. This is going to be the outside hull which is going to be used to avoid the fruit from burning. Divide into two equal parts and, with a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 3 mm in thickness. Roll out with a view to wrap the two fruit loaves you prepared, then gently cover the loaves. The dough shell doesn’t need to cover the fruit dough at the bottom, simply tuck in the outer layer so it doesn’t peel off during the bake. Finally, make sure the outer and inner dough parts are well connected.
Use a fork to make a decorative pattern on each of the loaves.
Rest for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 190°C in the meantime.
Brush the loaves with water and bake at 190°C for 10 minutes. Turn down the heat to 170°C and bake for a further 25 minutes. Cover the loaves with tin foil in case they brown too quickly.
Just before you take the loaves out of the oven, prepare the mixture for brushing by bringing the water, potato starch and sugar to the boil. Watch carefully and take it off the heat as soon as it has gelatinised.
Starting the year with healthy and nutritious bread is a great way to improve your diet. In the same vein, minimising food waste should be another goal high on the list of food-related ambitions. 22.4% of all bread (equating to 660,000t or £640 million of bread) is thrown away in UK homes every year. Bread is in the top three foods that Britons are throwing away uneaten, with potatoes and milk also making the shameful top three. Here are some tips to reduce bread waste, from storing bread in an ideal environment to using stale pieces of bread and ideas for leftover sourdough starter.
Tips for storing bread
Use a bread bin for storing bread to allow it to breathe and stay moist while shielding it from the worst of the dry air. Storing bread in plastic doesn’t let moisture escape so iwill get mushy. You can counteract this somewhat by wrapping the bread in a clean kitchen towel before putting it in a plastic bag as the fabric will absorb moisture. Don’t store bread in the fridge as it goes stale much faster. However, the freezer is a good option to go for if you’d like to keep your bread fresh for more than a few days.
Tips for using stale bread
I’m proud to report that I waste 0% of the bread I bake. Yes, we eat a lot of the tasty home-baked breads as long as they are fresh but, once a little bit stale, a splash of water and a hot oven can revive most breads to a deliciously soft state. Even really stale bread can be turned into breadcrumbs, croutons or pangrattato, used in salads such as fattoush or turned into bread dumplings or bread and butter pudding. There’s an assumption that stale bread means that it’s fit for the bin. But in actual fact stale bread is a versatile ingredient and there are many delicious recipes stale bread can be used in.
Another great way to use stale rye bread is adding some of it to your new bread dough. Old stale rye bread pieces add fantastic flavour to new loaves of bread. How to achieve this?
You can either keep old pieces of dried out bread. When ready to bake, soak the stale bread in water and blend before using the ‘bread puree’ for new bread dough.
Alternatively, if you have a grain mill at home, cut rye bread into cubes and leave them to dry out. Put them through the mill and let the crumbs dry out again. Just before baking, combine some of the crumbs with hot water which gives a wonderfully fragrant old bread soaker to add to your new dough.
Tips for leftover sourdough starter
After this long preamble, what I’ve come to talk about specifically here is the topic of leftover sourdough starter.
There are too many recipes which frustratingly encourage people to chuck leftover sourdough starter. Why should one toss a perfectly good portion of starter? Firstly, it’s perfectly possible to produce a sensible amount of starter to begin with, without having to discard mixture along the way. Secondly, there are many good ways to use any excess starter you might have, so don’t just put it in the bin. There’s never a reason to waste and discard accumulations of old but functioning sourdough.
Leftover sourdough starter ideas
Initiate your next production sourdough…
Here is one recipe that requires a good amount of sourdough starter (100g) and I’ve added another (new) recipe below using 140g starter. Please note: A fluffy loaf of sourdough bread is best baked with a refreshed, active starter to provide fermentation and leavening power. There are other recipes, however, that do well with discarded starter.
Pass it on…
Give the gift of good bread to your friends and family!
Use it as a natural bread improver…
A small amount (up to 10% of the total dough weight) of old starter will improve any bread in terms of flavour, especially yeast breads that don’t involve any sponge, sourdough or long fermentation. Just mix the old starter in with all the other ingredients and enjoy an improvement to the dough structure, flavour and quality that comes from its rich store of organic acids.
Improve the flavour of quick breads and bakes…
Use leftover sourdough starter to improve the flavour of pancakes, muffins or crackers .
Leftover sourdough bread recipe
This is a new sourdough recipe I put together with the purpose of using some spare starter I had. Due to the large amount of sourdough starter used, it’s a very vigorous dough so will prove more quickly than other recipes using only a fraction of the starter.
For the sourdough
140g leftover/spare sourdough starter
200g light/white rye flour
For the main dough
50g piece of stale rye bread (+hot water to soak)
280g light/white rye flour
220g strong white bread flour
How to make bread with spare sourdough starter
Combine the sourdough starter, rye flour and water in a medium bowl, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for about 16 hours until ripe and bubbly.
An hour before you start making the dough, take a small bowl to soak the piece of stale rye bread in water. Make sure all of the old bread is covered. Leave to soak.
Drain all the water from the bowl, then puree the bread until completely lump free.
In a large bowl, combine the sourdough mixture from day 1 (all of it) with the main dough ingredients, including the pureed old bread.
Form a dough and knead for a good 10 minutes. The dough will be quite soft, so you may want to knead it in a stand mixer.
Place back in the bowl if you had taken the dough out onto your work surface and cover. Rest for about an hour at room temperature. You should see a good rise from the bread in that time.
Dust with flour, cover with the baking tin’s lid or with a polythene bag and prove for a few hours at room temperature until fully proved (e.g. if it filled your tin by half, it should now come to the top).
Preheat your oven to 230°C in time for baking, then bake for 10 minutes at 230°C and a further 40 minutes at 190°C. If you have a baking tin with lid, take the lid off for the last 10 minutes.