22 December 2009
Finnish Coffee Braid
You may have heard that the East Coast got a bit of snow this weekend. I don't think it's snowed more than an inch since I've lived in DC, and then I woke up one morning to find this outside my door:
At which point, I promptly shut my door and decided to stay inside baking and catching up on all the television I've missed in the past three months. Although, even that gets old after awhile, and there's nothing like a good walk in the snow to get your cheeks rosy.
I also wished I had been one of those crazy people buying milk on Friday as I gazed at my sparse refrigerator contents. No bread, no cheese, and very few green things. I flipped through my favorite bread cookbook looking for something to make, and settled on a Finnish Cardamom-Orange Bread. The recipe calls it coffee cake, but it's what we know as a sweet yeast bread.
I was a bit skeptical about the amount of cardamom, which can be unpleasant if overpowering, but the breads came out very subtly spiced. I baked the breads for the 45 minutes the recipe called for, but found that the bread was a bit drier and darker on the bottom than I would've liked, so I've adjusted the time below.
The recipe makes two ample braids, perfect for gifting this holiday season. I also have to give a plug to Menu for Hope, which has great gifts of foods around the world and benefits the UN World Food Program (my previous employer). There are a lot of good causes out there but this is one I can speak for personally. Then again, I'd be perfectly happy with a batch of cookies.
Finnish Coffee Braid
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm water
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
grated peel of 1 orange
about 5 cups all-purpose flour
for glaze: 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
1. Place yeast and water in the bottom of a large bowl and let sit.
2. Place milk and butter in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and heat until the butter is melted and milk is scalded but does not boil. Let cool to lukewarm.
3. Add the eggs and milk mixture to the bowl with the yeast. Add the sugar, salt, cardamom, and zest and stir to combine. Gradually add the flour to make a fairly stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until the dough is smooth.
4. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
5. Punch down and divide into two portions. Divide one portion into thirds and form each third into a rope about 18-24 inches long. Braid the ropes, pinching together the ends. Repeat the braiding with the second half of the dough. Twist braids into rings and pinch together to seal.
6. Place wreaths on a greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until almost doubled 1-1 1/2 hours.
7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush each loaf with the beaten egg/milk mixture. Bake 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.