Just finished a Finnish coffee braid…

This recipe is from a fellow (though far superior) food blog that I adore: http://desertcandy.blogspot.com/ She explores and explains her love of Middle Eastern cooking, one of my personal favs. I love how much thought and care she puts into the background of each recipe – you can certainly learn a lot from visiting her site.

My rounds don’t look as pretty as hers, but my nickname around the kitchen is “rough chop” so it’s ok with me! Besides, you really can’t go wrong with the flavor, so get creative with your shapes and add your own personal touch!

This recipe is easy, easy, easy. And when you are done, looking at your browned braids, you feel like a professional baker..even if only for as long as the bread lasts! Which usually isn’t long. I also like that the recipe is made for two loaves, so you can make one for yourself and give one away! One for me, one for you! I’ve added a quick and easy honey butter recipe that pairs deliciously with the orangy – cardamon-y flavors in the bread.

So, on to the recipe:

What you will need:

For the bread:

2 and 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) of active dry yeast

3 tablespoons warm water

1 cup milk  (I used whole)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamon

Grated peel of 1 orange

appx. five cups of all-purpose flour

For the glaze:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon milk (again, I used whole)

For the honey-butter:

You guess it!

4 tablespoons butter (you’ll want to take this out of the fridge when you start, so it’s nice and soft for mixing)

1-2 tablespoons honey

First, you want to get those yeast activated. Since I’ve had some frustrating experiences with yeast and temperature fluctuations, I pre-warm the metal bowl in my mixer, just to be extra-encouraging to those little yeast. I do this by turning the metal mixing bowl upside down in the sink and running some warm water over it. While this is happening, I measure out the yeast and since I need some warm water anyhow – it’ll be ready!

Give them a warm little bath, and they WILL reward you!

Next, you want to melt the butter into the whole milk. For easier melting, slice the butter into tablespoons. Pour the cup of whole milk into a pot on the stove and warm, with butter pieces, until the butter is melted – but be careful not to let the milk boil.

The Sea of Butter and Milk…

You’ll want to keep an eye on this and remove it from the heat as soon as the butter melts. Otherwise you will be waiting a long while for it to cool back down to a temperature that won’t end the lives of your yeast prematurely!

I had to spend a little time whisking and cooling my milk in the fridge before it was an appropriate temperature.

While it’s cooling, measure out your sugar, salt and cardamon. You can probably get cardamon pre-grounded, but we buy the pods and they require smashing. Angry at anyone? Another great opportunity to take it out!

Whisk a couple eggs in a small bowl or measuring cup.

For the zesting, we have a microplane – they aren’t too expensive, maybe ten bucks at target, but they are a great tool in the kitchen. They are good for all sorts of spices, like whole nutmeg, and orange zest, also it makes a nice grate for cheese. I’m sure there are tons of other uses, but those are the ones off the top of my head.

Watch your fingers!

Next step is to add the milk mix, the sugar-spice mix, and the zest to the yeast – being sure to test the milk thoroughly for temperature.

Mix together with a wooden spoon, and attach your dough hook, if you are using an electric mixer. Next, you’ll want to add the flour, one cup at a time, until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. I used all five cups of flour, but just watch the dough’s consistency as you go along.

Not ready yet!

dough ball!

Once the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl – it’s time for kneading! Either by hand or with the machine, knead until the dough is smooth and cohesive.

Now it’s time for a break! Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap until it is doubled. Again, in our frigid kitchen, I give my doughs a little extra support by turning on the oven to 200-250 degrees (F) and placing the bowl above a burner.

So, while you’re waiting for the dough to rise, which may take up to two hours, it’s a great time to throw together the honey-butter. If you forgot to take the butter out, just do it now and wait until the second rest to mix it together – not one needs the uphill battle of hard butter!

I just throw half a stick or a whole stick of butter into a small tupperware container, and pour the honey on top. Let your taste buds guide you here, some like it sweeter, like me! and some more buttery – like me! Ok, you caught me, I like it both ways..and I’m always looking for an excuse to spread thicker layers of butter on whatever it is that I’m eating..so it’s your call!

Squish ’em together – very technical cooking terms here. I use the back of a metal spoon.

..not particularly photogenic…but delicoius nonetheless!

Then cover that little container up and allow the flavors to mind meld!

Ok, back to the bread…a couple hours later..Punch your dough down and divide into two equal parts. In some cases I refer to “serious” measuring, but this isn’t one of these times! yay! So, just do you best to eye it. Unless you are a perfectionist..in which case, to the scale! I only use the scale when either (a) my husband is in the kitchen with me, or (b) I’ve tried the recipe a few times without measuring only to fail miserably. So I am happy to report that the rules are not so stringent here!

Take each portion and divide it into three equal (ish) parts:

Looks about right, RIGHT?

Form each ball into a ropes that are of about equal length, aiming for 18-24 inches long..although mine have sort of consistently been a bit shorter than that!

Roll out! Roll out!

Next you want to connect the ends – like when you made friendship bracelets! If you were a dork like me…I’ll say it, I had a box of organized threads by color! Pretty awesome when you are 29, I mean, 12…

Get ready to braid!

As you braid the pieces together, pull the dough slightly for a tighter braid and be sure to adjust the pieces so they stay about the same thickness along the way.

Mine isn’t all that perfectly even, but I said TRY, right? 🙂

Next, you want to shape it into a round, pinching the ends together to form a full circle.

The ends might not be perfect, but kind of like how tanning evens out the skins imperfections, the browning on this loaf will distract from any irregularities in the shape!

Place onto a greased baking sheet, or in my case, a greased piece of parchment paper. I like the parchment because it keeps the baking sheet clean when you brush on the egg mixture and makes them really easy to slide off the sheet when done.

Cover with a dishtowel and let rest/rise for another 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled.

When they are getting close, preheat the oven, or in my case, turn the oven UP, to 350 degrees (F). Mix together the egg yolk and milk for your glaze. When the oven is ready, brush on your mixture.

Brush….brush, brush it on..

Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside. Pull out of oven and let cool on wire racks. After completely cooled, place into a large plastic bag for keeping. It’s sort of a squishy bread, but if it gets too squishy in the bag, just open it up for a couple hours.

Next, you’ll need to “test” your bread, with a healthy serving of honey-butter. Hey, if it’s only HALF butter, why hold back? I like to call it a butter ‘spread’ so I feel better about just how MUCH I put on there.

Mmmm yummy honey-butter, with hints of orange and cardamon..

Bon appetit! And be sure to check out the desert candy blog, there are tons of yummy and new things to try out there and lots to learn!

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