So after last week’s news about selling my house, I’m in the middle of moving out, while working a lot and putting my best face while enduring 35ºC (94ºF) with a million percent humidity like today.
Considering it’s almost Christmas – yes it is, whether you’re ready or not – and I wouldn’t dream of missing the last post of Twelve Loaves this year, the bread baking group founded by Lora and run with the invaluable help of Renee, I present you with a bread with a hefty dose of almonds – ground, sliced and extract – just perfect for a quiet moment nursing your cup of whatever liquid suits your mood.
So a list of good, trusted recipes will come in very handy. Believe me, this is not the time of year to think outside the box too much and end up with hours logged in baking and nothing to account for them. There’s just too much going on to have to start all over again.
Or braided ring in my case. It turns out I have a thing for lightly sweet breads, braided and glazed. Like the finnish pulla, or the cinnamon sugar challah, my two favorites so far. And now this simple braid with a crunchy topping of almonds and coarse raw sugar – which looks like broken styrofoam bits – and pure almond extract with lemon and vanilla in the dough. Aren’t you glad you can add it to your collection?
If you want to give braided sweet breads such as this one for the holidays, remember to wrap it as soon as it cools so it keeps moist, like the pandoro I made last year. Or add a note that it can be frozen and toasted later. Or a recipe for a caramelized apple bread pudding or french toast.
Crunchy Almond Holiday Bread #TwelveLoaves
Yield 1 very large round
You can use all purpose flour instead of both flours listed below. I use cream together with lowfat milk; you can use full fat milk and ½ cup water too.
For the bread:
- 1 Tbs active dry yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- Zest of 1 medium lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups bread flour
- 1 cup milk (I use lowfat)
- ¼ cup cream
- ¼ cup water
- 5 Tbs olive oil
- 2 teaspoons pure almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
For the crunchy topping:
- ¼ cup coarse raw sugar
- ¼ cup whole almonds
- ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 1 egg + 1 Tbs water, glaze
For the bread:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if you’re kneading by hand), mix 2 cups cake flour, yeast and lemon zest.
- Heat together milk, cream, water and oil to lukewarm (120ºF). Add it to the yeast mixture together with the eggs, mix with a wooden spoon a bit, and add salt, almond and vanilla extract. Mix well until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Attach to the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and start adding the rest of the flours, ½ cup at a time. Knead for 4 or 5 minutes, adding a few extra tablespoons if needed because the dough is wet. The dough will leave the sides of the bowl for the first minute when you add flour, but it won’t completely gather into a ball. That is fine.
- If making by hand, mix with a wooden spoon while you add the remaining flour, until it’s very thick. Then dump the dough into a lightly floured counter, and knead by hand for no less than 5 minutes, adding extra flour by tablespoons to make a
- slightly sticky dough.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on the
- temperature of the room.
- On a lightly floured counter, flatten the dough into a rectangle, and cut it into three ropes.
- Pinch 3 ends together, and braid it. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.
- Transfer to a parchment paper lined or greased baking sheet, and pin the two ends together to make a ring. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven 20 minutes before baking to 350ºF
For the crunchy topping:
- While the bread is rising for the last time, in a processor (I use the small one) mix sugar, whole almonds and cinnamon until it’s coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the sliced almonds.
- When ready to bake, mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, and brush generously but carefully the top of the dough. Sprinkle with the almond mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 325º and bake 10 more minutes, until golden and crunchy.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Or eat warm.
adapted from Bread For All Seasons, by Beth Hensperger
Our wonderful list of holiday recipes:
- Cinnamon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake by Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Cranberry Apple Cinnamon Rolls by Dionne at Try Anything Once Culinary
- Cranberry Orange Scones by Renee at Kudos Kitchen by Renee
- Crunchy Almond Holiday Bread by Paula at Vintage Kitchen Notes
- Holiday Breakfast Wreath by Lora at Cake Duchess
- Mini Toffee Banana Bread with Caramel Sauce by Holly at A Baker’s House
- Nut Brittle Topped Holiday Bread by Deepti at Baking Yummies
- Pandoro by Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Stollen by Renee at Magnolia Days