Pour the warm water into the large bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir in ½ teaspoon sugar. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes or until it starts to bubble and grow. Add ½ the flour to the yeast mixture along with the salt. Pour in the milk and mix with the flat blade until all the flour is incorporated. Set the mixer on medium speed and run for 2 minutes. Remove the bowl and cover it with a clean dry towel. Allow it to stand in a warm draft free place for 1 to 3 hours or until doubled in bulk. Return the bowl to the stand mixer and add the remaining ingredients. Use the flat blade of the mixer to mix in all the ingredients, on medium speed, until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Now fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough for 7 minutes at medium speed. The dough will be soft and may not form a ball. While the dough is kneading grease and flour a 1½ to 2 quart soufflé dish, Panettone mold,
mold or deep oven proof bowl. Cut two pieces of aluminum foil which are long enough to go around the circumference of the dish. Place one piece of foil one on top of the other, for added strength, and fold them in thirds to make a long strip. Wrap the foil around the dish making a high collar that stands about 4 inches above the top of the dish. Tie a piece of cotton sting around the foil to hold the foil in place. This collar will hold the dough in place as it rises and bakes. Grease the inside of the foil so that it can be easily removed once the bread is baked. Spoon the dough into the prepared pan and cover it with a clean dry towel. Allow it to stand in a draft free place for 3 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. The dough will rise almost to the top of the foil. Move the rack of the oven down so that the bread will have room to bake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the top of the bread with melted butter and place the baking dish into the oven and bake until the top of the bread is well browned and a long skewer inserted in the center of the bread comes out dry, about 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool for about 30 minutes before removing the collar and then the bread from the pan. Using a sharp knife run it around the inside of the baking dish to loosen the bread and turn the pan over to allow the bread to fall out. Place on a platter to finish cooling.
Sliced almonds can be substituted for pine nuts and dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries or any other of your favorite dried fruits can be used in this bread.