For Christmas everyone I know is getting bread. My little experiment with French Bread led me to a recipe for Sweet Yeasty Bread. They are easy, lovely and SO tasty!
Braided Sweet Bread
1 ½ Tb yeast
1 Tb sugar
¼ c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 ¼ c. warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
2 c. unbleached flour
2 large eggs
zest from 1 orange
2 t. salt
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. each dried fruits: apricots, raisins, cranberries. Chopped fine.
2 ½ to 3 c. unbleached flour
1 ½ sticks butter (3/4 c.) cut into small pieces
Rich Egg Glaze:
1 Tb. Milk
Makes 3 loaves.
1. Sponge: in mixer using the paddle, combine ingredients, and beat hard until smooth about 1 min. Cover and let rest for about 30 min.
2. Add eggs, zest, salt, sugar, dried fruits and 1 cup more flour. Beat until smooth. Add butter a few pieces at a time and beat until incorporated.
3. Change to dough hook. Add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time to form a soft dough. Dough should be very soft but just starting to come away from the side of bowl.
4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Kneed until smooth, shiny and soft, about 10 turns. Place in a greased bowl, let rise about 2 hours. Gently deflate, recover and let rise for 12-24 hrs in refrigerator.
5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into 9 equal portions. Roll each section into a strip with your hands and lay 3 strips side by side. Braid the dough and pinch each end to hold together and tuck under. Place on a pan lined with parchment. Cover and let rise until almost doubled. About 40 minutes. It will finish rising in the oven. Preheat oven to 350.
5. Brush with rich egg glaze. Bake until hollow sounding when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
The images above are from my first two loaves. I've since made about 12 more and they are soo much better looking! Also, I added the dried fruit during the braiding step in these. Having them in the dough makes the whole thing much easier and results in a more uniform loaf.