Looking for great-tasting holiday bread that will wow your family and friends and make them think you’re a rock star in the kitchen? Present this beautiful braided loaf at your next meal and be prepared for stardom. Here’s the best part – it’s easy! Start with a yeast dough flavored with orange, add in plump cranberries and toasted walnuts, braid and bake. It’s as simple as that – promise. This bread is slightly sweet, making it a tasty breakfast treat or a delicious accompaniment to soups or stews. The holidays are a time to “go big” and offer the best we can to the ones we love. This cranberry-walnut braid fits the bill. Turn on some holiday music and let’s bake!
To create such fabulous-tasting bread we need to begin with high-quality ingredients. Hodgson Mill Bread Flour is the perfect place to start. It’s high in protein, which makes a slice of this bread the perfect way to start the day. It’s also high in gluten, which gives the dough the elasticity needed to roll, stretch and form into braids.
That said, combine the Hodgson Mill Bread Flour, sugar, Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast and salt in your dough-making method of choice. I used my bread machine, but a mixer with a dough hook or working it out by hand is just fine, too. Add the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, orange extract, zest and juice. Begin kneading the dough and add enough hot water to create a soft, slightly tacky, (but not sticky) dough. Continue with your machine’s dough cycle or let the dough rise in a warm area until it’s doubled in size.
Hello Lovely! Forget about dancing sugar plums, perfect dough like this fills the dreams of bread bakers far and wide.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the dried cranberries and toasted walnuts by hand. It takes only a few nudges to get them worked into this supple dough.
Split the dough into four equal pieces. Put one portion off to the side. We’ll get back to it in a minute.
Roll the pieces of dough into approximately 13-inch logs with the palms of your hands. Pinch the tops of the logs together and braid the dough as you would a girl’s hair. Pinch the end of the braid and tuck the top and bottom ends under to hide the pinched parts.
So pretty! It makes me want to braid all of my breads. Transfer the braid to a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled.
Split up the last piece of dough into three portions and roll each one into a 10-inch long log. Repeat the braiding process with these pieces.
Brush the top of the first, larger braid with beaten egg and place the second, smaller braid on top. Brush the small braid with egg, too. Let the whole thing rise, uncovered, in a warm area until almost doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
Bake in a 325˚ F oven for 40-50 minutes or until the loaf is a deep, golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
The two braids bake into one, creating a dazzling loaf that makes beautifully cut slices. The orange, cranberry and walnuts are holiday flavors that make me happy. It reminds me of the holidays each time I take a bite — or in this case, when my daughter does.
Braid some bread this Christmas and watch everyone around you get excited about mealtime. It’s a delicious bit of kitchen magic that only we rock stars can create. Enjoy!
Adapted from Epicurious.com
3 cups Hodgson Mill Bread Flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature or slightly warm
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, hot
1½ Tablespoons orange extract
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
⅓ cup (approx.) hot water
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
1 large egg, beaten to blend, for egg wash
Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in bread machine pan or whichever method of dough making you choose (dough hook or by hand). Add buttermilk, two eggs, melted butter, orange extract, orange juice and orange zest. Begin kneading dough and add enough hot water to create a soft, smooth dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Continue the dough cycle on the bread machine or allow the dough to rise in a warm area for about an hour and a half.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four equal pieces. Set one portion of the dough aside. Roll each of the three pieces of dough into 13-inch long logs with the palms of your hands. Braid the logs together. Tuck under the ends and transfer the braid to a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled. Separate the remaining dough into three equal pieces and roll each into a 10-inch log. Repeat braiding process. Brush the first, larger braid with some of the egg wash and then place the second, smaller braid on top of the larger braid. Brush the smaller braid with some of the egg wash. Let the dough rise, uncovered in a warm area until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Bake in a 325˚ F oven for 40-50 minutes or until the loaf is a deep, golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.