This apricot bread has been a Christmas tradition for more than a decade, but it tastes great any time of year you can get dried apricots. This recipe is also surprisingly low fat considering how rich the bread tastes, but the cream cheese filling is a must. The little bits of dried apricot provide a tangy zing that will have you reaching for another slice. This actually isn't as much work as the number of photos below might suggest.
Preheat oven to 350°F
11 ounces dried apricots
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup reserved apricot water
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
zest of 1 orange (1 tablespoon)
Prepare loaf pans
Grease and flour two 8.5 inch by 4.5 inch bread loaf pans. Line the bottom of each loaf pan with floured and greased waxed paper. I use the spray (e.g. Pam) that has built in flour and it is super easy.
Hydrate the apricots
Heat the dried apricots and water over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the water begins to simmer, turn off heat and continue to stir once in a while to help the apricots absorb water.
Mix ingredients in food processor
In a food processor, combine the sugar, 1/2 cup of butter and 2 eggs. Mix until thoroughly blended. Strain the apricots and reserve 1/2 cup of the apricot water. Add the apricot water and 1 cup of orange juice to the food processor and mix well. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly blended. Pour all of the dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse power until just blended.
Add apricots and walnuts
Add the drained apricots to the food processor, which will be getting a little full, unless you have a really large one (if there is no room, you can just chop the apricots separately or with a knife on a cutting board). Pulse the food processor in brief pulses until the apricots are just chopped. Over-mixing will yield a bread without any tangy bits of apricots—I've over-mixed it before and it isn't as good and the bread color gets way too orange. Pour this mixture into another bowl and add the 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Mix in with a spatula or wooden spoon. Pour half of the dough into each loaf pan. Let sit for 20 minutes (which is why you can wait to preheat the oven until now).
Bake dough after letting rest 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 350°F. Once the oven is preheated and the dough has rested for 20 minutes, place in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately remove loaves from pans, remove wax paper, and let cool on cooling racks until room temperature.
Prepare the filling
The bread will need to cool before you apply the filling, so make this whenever it is convenient. Cream together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until the consistency of cake frosting. Add 1/2 cup of sifted powdered sugar and mix until thorougly blended. Using a microplane grater, remove the zest from one orange to yield about a tablespoon of zest. Add zest and blend well.
Slice bread and spread filling to make sandwiches
Once the bread has cooled to room temperature, slice it into 3/8 inch thick slices. Spread one side of each slice and combine two slices—filling side facing eachother—to make a sandwich. Stack the sandwiches and wrap in plastic wrap before chilling in refrigerator. You can eat these at room temperature, but I recommend serving them slightly chilled. If they are at refrigerator temperature, let sit out for an hour so they aren't too cold. Slice each sandwich in half to make little, bite-sized squares.