In my family, Christmas and Easter were (are) the two most traditional times of the year when we love to make holiday breads. They smell great while baking, the warmth of the kitchen adds to the cozy feeling, and of course the flavor of a fresh-baked bread, maybe along with a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa, is fantastic and creates memories and traditions. Whether you are an expert baker with lots of experience or if you are new to the art of baking, consider adding holiday breads to your winter celebrations. I’m sure many will appreciate it.
Swedish tea ring
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees or according to manufacturer’s directions)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 to 6 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, patted dry
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, oil, egg whites, salt and 1 cup flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together walnuts, cherries, brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Punch dough down; roll into an 18-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with nut mixture to within 1/2 inch of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal.
3. Place seam side down on a 14-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray; pinch ends together to form a ring. With scissors, cut from outside edge two-thirds of the way toward center of ring at scant 1-inch intervals. Separate strips slightly; twist to allow filling to show. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
5. For icing: In a small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over tea ring. Makes 1 ring (about 24 slices).
Cherry cream cheese candy cane bread
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees or as manufacturer suggests)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
2 packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1 jar (12-oz.) cherry jam
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large bowl, combine butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and salt. Add yeast mixture and flour; beat until smooth (do not knead). Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. For filling, in a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla until blended. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divided in half. Roll out each portion into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle on a greased baking sheet. Spread filling down center of each rectangle. On each long side, cut 1 1/2-inch-wide strips about 3 inches into center. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Pinch ends to seal. Curve one end, forming a candy cane. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Stir jam, then spoon over top of bread, creating candy cane stripes. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 2 breads.
Cranberry orange nut bread
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1. Preheat oven to 330. Grease or spray two 6-cup capacity loaf pans (or, if making mini loaves, grease or spray six 2-cup capacity pans).
2. With a mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add orange juice, sour cream. orange zest and vanilla; mix until well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture, cranberries and nuts to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed; do not mix too much. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 70 to 75 minutes for the large loaves and 60 minutes for mini loaves.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and 7 tablespoons Grand Marnier. Glaze should have consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup. If it is too thick, thin with an additional tablespoon of liqueur.
5. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a large baking sheet. With a thin skewer or long toothpick, poke deep holes in tops of loaves. Drizzle with glaze. Let loaves cool completely, then slice and serve, or wrap to give as gifts. Can be frozen until ready to use. Makes 2 large loaves or 6 small ones.
Danish Christmas bread (Julekage)
4 1/2 cups flour, divided
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons chopped candied citron
2 tablespoons chopped candied lemon peel
2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees or according to manufacturer’s suggestion)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon turbinado (or regular) sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. For dough: Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, almonds and the next 8 ingredients (almonds through cardamom) in a bowl.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and yeast in warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in butter, vanilla and 2 beaten eggs and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture; stir to mix. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees or so) free from drafts, 1 hour and 45 minutes. Dough does not need to double in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)
4. Punch dough down; let rest 5 minutes. Roll into an 11-by-9-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place, seam side down, in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 1 hour and 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375. Uncover the dough. Combine the 1 tablespoon milk, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 egg; brush lightly over loaf. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.
6. For glaze: In a small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, water and almond extract until smooth. Drizzle over over baked loaf. Makes 1 loaf.