I consider myself a fairly confident baker, but bread has always made me quake in my boots! Past attempts at braided Easter bread or challah bread haven’t gone as planned. I find myself watching the yeast bubble up or rise, just as someone would watch a boiling pot of water.
When I came across a beautiful recipe for a holiday bread, I decided to give it another shot. I’m on sort of a baking roll this month anyway, so what could it hurt? This bread incorporates orange, cranberries, and walnuts for a citrus-infused holiday flavor.
Admittedly, making risen bread from scratch is a labor of love. There are a number of steps involved, and lots of waiting around. However, the result is truly worth it–and the warm, yeasty smell of bread rising in your oven is just a bonus! This recipe produces a soft, airy bread punctuated by crunchy bits and tangy sweetness. I hope you all enjoy.
- 3 cups (or more) bread flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 envelopes quick-rising yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 tbsp. orange extract
- 1/3 cup (about) hot water (120-130 degrees F)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
- Stir 3 cups flour, the sugar, yeast and salt in large bowl to blend. Add buttermilk, 2 eggs, melted butter and orange extract and stir vigorously until well blended. Gradually stir in enough hot water to form soft, slightly sticky dough. Transfer dough to floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and slightly tacky but not sticky, adding more flour if necessary, about 7 minutes. Knead in dried cranberries 1/3 cup at a time; then knead in walnuts. Form dough into ball.
- Oil large bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Lightly oil large heavy baking sheet (or line with parchment paper). Punch down dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; then divide 1 piece of dough into 3 equal pieces and reserve. Using palms of hands, roll out each of remaining 3 large pieces on work surface to 13-inch long ropes. Braid ropes together. Tuck ends under and pinch together. Transfer braid to prepared baking sheet. Roll out each of the reserved 3 small dough pieces to 10-inch long ropes. Braid ropes together. Tuck ends under and pinch together. Brush large braid with some of egg glaze. Place small braid atop center of large braid. Brush small braid with some of egg glaze. Let rise uncovered in warm area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush loaf again with egg glaze. Bake until loaf is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 45 minutes. Transfer loaf to rack and cool at least 45 minutes before slicing. (Can be made ahead. Cool completely. Wrap tightly in foil and a plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw at room temperature.)