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Holiday Sweet Bread

This master recipe can be formed into 2 traditional loaves; or form into desired shapes, such as the Swedish Almond Braid, Poppy Stollen or Six-Stranded Braid. Each filling recipe yields enough for two loaves.

Ingredients

Holiday Sweet Bread

Sweet Bread Poppy Seed Filling

Sweet Bread Cranberry Filling

Sweet Bread Almond Filling

Sweet Bread Apricot Filling

Instructions

Holiday Sweet Bread

  1. In a small bowl or 2-cup measure combine the yeast, warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel and set aside until bubbly and very active, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, scald the milk. Pour immediately into a large bowl and add the butter, salt, sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs. Stir to melt the butter. When the mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix together. Add flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and scrape out the bowl. Lightly oil the bowl and set aside.
  3. Knead the dough, using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board. The dough should be soft and pliable, but not sticky. (The secret to a soft, tender bread is a soft dough.) Place the dough into the oiled bowl, turn to oil all surfaces and cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel. Let sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  4. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Punch down and round into a ball. Divide in half, cover with plastic wrap and let rest 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Form into desired shapes, such as the Swedish Almond Braid, Poppy Stollen or Six-Stranded Braid.

Swedish Almond Braid

  1. Lightly fold down dough. Divide dough in 3 pieces. Put plastic wrap over the top and set aside. Take one piece and roll it out into a rectangle approximately 16-inches x 9-inches to form
  2. Spread almond filling down center section, leaving 1 inch of clear space at either end. Cut 1-inch-wide strips from edge of filling to outer edge of dough. Fold ends over, and bring dough strips across the filling on a diagonal, alternating from side to side, like a two-stranded braid. Cover dough with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush tops of loaves with the egg wash. Bake loaves 25 to 35 minutes, or until a rich, golden brown. Cool on wire racks. To decorate: Drizzle with thick Confectioners' Sugar Glaze (below), and top with sliced almonds.
  3. Confectioners' Sugar Glaze: Mix 1 cup confectioners' sugar with 2 tablespoons liquid (water, milk, a few drops of flavor extract, rum, brandy, grated lemon or orange peel, etc.) If you drizzle glaze on right after pastries come out of the oven, it will spread and create a clear, shiny glaze over the whole surface. For more crunch, sprinkle nuts over this before it hardens.

Poppy Stollen

  1. You will need some Poppy Seed Filling. Roll dough into a rough rectangle approximately 12-inches x 16-inches. Spread each with poppy-seed filling, leaving 1 inch of clear space on all sides. Starting at a long side, roll up jellyroll style. Pinch ends and tuck under. Starting 1 inch from an end, slice down and completely through the rolled dough lengthwise. Turn the two resulting strands so that the filling faces up, and cross them over each other two to three times. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush tops of loaves with an egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water. Bake loaves for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a rich, golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Six-Stranded Braid

  1. Take 1/3 of dough and divide it in 6 pieces. Roll out each piece until it becomes a "rope". Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Brush the top of the braid with the egg wash. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. Remove from pan and cool on wire racks.

Sweet Bread Poppy Seed Filling

  1. Combine poppy seed filling, egg, cinnamon and walnuts in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent sticking. Heat until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Add candied peel and set aside to cool.

Sweet Bread Cranberry Filling

  1. Combine poppy seed filling, egg, cinnamon and walnuts in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly to prevent sticking. Heat until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Add candied peel and set aside to cool.

Sweet Bread Almond Filling

  1. Beat egg whites until thick. Slowly add the rest of the filling ingredients except the milk. Add only enough milk to adjust the consistency. Chill in the refrigerator as the dough is being made. This recipe makes enough filling for at least four braids.

Sweet Bread Apricot Filling

  1. Pour the boiling water over the apricots and cover with plastic wrap so that they can steam. When the apricots have softened, drain them. You can reserve the flavored sugar, and extract in a food processor and pulse until you have a thick puree.

Recipe used with permission from King Arthur Flour.


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