From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...While this version of cardamom bread happens to be Swedish, you'll find that all of Scandinavia and most of central Europe make a bread similar to it for their holiday celebrations. I was quite young when I first sampled it. We had German and Swedish neighbors who gifted us with the bread and regaled us with tales of Christmas kitchens and childhood in their own countries. I was re-introduced to the bread as a bride, when our German landlords and the Polish mother of dear, dear friends made it for us during the holidays. This time, I was old enough to appreciate tradition and knew a good thing when I saw it. I was inspired to make the loaf myself and asked for input from the experienced bread bakers who were around me. Although I did not have an electric mixer, I learned to make the bread, supervised by a teacher whose input, good and bad, eventually allowed me to produce produced a decent loaf of Christmas bread. If you have an electric mixer, you'll find this bread is actually easy to make and it is nearly foolproof. There is one hitch. The dough for the bread is damp and stringy and tempts many folks to add too much flour to the batter. Resist the temptation. If the sticky dough falls or sheets off your hands, you'll be fine, as long as you let the dough rest at the appointed times. I generally use 3-1/2 cups of flour to mix and knead the dough, but weather conditions can vary and the type of flour you use may require the addition of another 1/2 cup or so. If you use more than 4 cups cups of flour, I fear you'll have a doorstop in the making. I like this bread for its flavor and simplicity and I make it several times during the holiday season. I do hope you'll give this recipe a try. Here is how the bread is made.
Orange Scented Cardamom Braid...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Midwest Living magazine
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons toasted almond slices
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
1) Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, butter, oil, shredded orange peel, cardamom and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Stir in 1 cup of flour. Add yeast mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups flour, one cup at a time. (The dough should be slightly slightly wet.) Cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes.
3) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1-1/4 hours.
4) Punch down dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 14-inch long rope. Place ropes 1 inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Starting in middle, loosely braid to each end. Pinch ends to seal and tuck them under loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix egg with milk and lightly brush top of braid with egg mixture. Sprinkle loaf with toasted almond slices. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on top. If necessary to prevent over-browning, cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. Remove from baking sheet. Cool on a wire rack.
6) Meanwhile mix confectioners' sugar with milk and orange extract. Drizzle mixture over still warm bread. Yield: 1 loaf.
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