Quite frankly, I am still feeling the after effects of the holidays. It was a nice time with my family but it also meant, with a full house for about two consecutive weeks, I was on my feet…..cooking, mostly.

I found an amazing bread recipe that looked deceptively complicated; it’s twisty and round and all kinds of delicious but I was glad I made it.

As always, a quick audit of my fridge and pantry assured me that I had almost everything I needed. The things I didn’t have, I simply substituted without missed a beat.

I present to you a wonderful cranberry and almond filled wreath; although I served it up for breakfast on Christmas Day, this will delight anyone at anytime of the year.

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You must to be pretty organized to follow through on the preparation of this bread so I advise that you measure and set everything out ahead so that you can go through the process seamlessly.

Ingredients
For the bread:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 50 degrees C)
1/2 cup warm milk (about 50 degrees C)
3 tablespoons sugar
60 grams butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ginger powder (the original recipe called for cardamon)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons good quality lemon essence (grated lemon zest is ideal but I didn’t have any)
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the cranberry-almond filling:
3/4 cup raisins soaked in 1/2 cup rum (recipe called for dried cranberries or cherries soaked in brandy; I got creative with what I had to hand)
90 grams butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon essence or freshly grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons cranberry preserve

For the sugar glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon essence
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

* if you have fresh lemon juice, you should the substitute the Lemon essence and vinegar for lemon juice wherein you will require 2 tbs water and 1 tbs lemon juice.

 

The “How To”
Preparing the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let it foam up for at least two minutes. Then blend in the milk, sugar, butter, salt, ginger, eggs and lemon essence. Stir in two cups of the flour, a cup at a time and beat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until you have a soft, workable dough — I used up all my flour but you might not need to use all so be attentive to the consistency of the dough.

Place the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 5 to 10 minutes; WARNING! This is a great arm work out and also a good way to get rid of any pent up emotions…..lol :-)…..just saying………Dust with more flour if needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

When you are done, place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl large enough to accommodate it as it doubles in size. Cover with cling film or a clean damp tea cloth and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. This will take about 1 1/2 hours.

The filling
Drain the dried fruit from the liqueur and reserve the liqueur for another use. In a small bowl, combine the drained fruit with remaining filling ingredients. Once you are done, cover it and refrigerate.

NOTE: I noticed that the cranberry preserve I added made the filling a bit wet and somewhat made the dough slightly difficult to work with when I filled it and tried to cut and twist it. I applied the preserve because I wanted a tart kick to it since I didn’t have dried cranberries. All-in-all it turned out great but maneuvering it was tricky.

Now for the fun part! Shaping the dough.

When dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured board, kneading it just enough to release any air bubbles.

Let me add here that you need a a big, clean surface to roll it on. Roll the dough into a 9×30-inch rectangle; it helps to use a ruler to measure the dimensions.

Crumble the filling over the dough to within 1 inch of the edges. Starting along a long side, tightly but carefully  roll up the dough, pinching edge against loaf to seal. With a sharp knife, cut roll in half lengthwise. Carefully turn the halves so the cut sides are facing up, and then loosely twist the halves around each other, keeping cut sides up.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and carefully transfer the “rope” to the baking sheet and shape into a wreath, pinching the ends together to seal it. Let it rise, uncovered, in a warm place until  it is puffy for about 45 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 175°C and bake the wreath until it is lightly browned which should take about 25 minutes. While the wreath is baking, stir together the ingredients for the glaze and set aside.

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When wreath is done, transfer to a cooling rack by picking up the sides of the parchment and then sliding the parchment out from underneath it. Cool for a few minutes then drizzle the glaze over the warm wreath. The glaze is very forgiving and helps to mask any imperfections your wreath may have.

You may serve he wreath with your favourite jam, butter or even some lemon curd but I assure you that you will gobble it all up before you even add anything to it. It is that good!

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I served mine with some fresh fruits and juice and it was a real treat.

 

FFF Tip of the Day

It is always a great idea to be guided by recipes especially when baking things like bread but don’t be afraid to apply your intuition. If the dough feels too sticky sprinkle on some more flour. Remember YOU are in control

This recipe was adapted from thekitchn

Since the holidays, I have had a pressing need to bake something and in the last few weeks, I have baked all manners of cakes, muffins and cookies.

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Today, I just had to make a recipe that I had developed in my head. I had been meaning to make coconut macaroons but wanted something a little different.

So I made coconut, almond and cranberry macaroons.

The cranberries added a tartness that countered the sweetness of the cookie. It was a nice balance and the chocolate rounded off the whole thing nicely.

Ingredients

3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 14 oz can of condensed milk
2 cups sliced almonds
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2 egg whites
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons rum extract (optional)

Topping

1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cream or condensed milk

The “How To”
Pre-heat Oven to 175 degrees centigrade and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Whip egg whites till frothy with soft peaks and set aside.

Combine, flour, cranberries, coconut and almonds in a bowl. Then add condensed milk, vanilla, rum and almond extract and mix through thoroughly. Carefully fold In the egg whites until evenly combined. The rum extract adds an interesting dimension to the overall flavour profile. Next time I think I might try soaking my dry cranberries in actual rum. That should really be something!

Using a small ice cream scoop or wet hands from small balls and place on the lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

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Put them in the oven for 15 minutes or until the edges a golden. Take them out immediately and cool to ensure that they retain crunch on the outside and moistness within. Don’t worry they’ll feel gooey at first but as they cool they’ll firm up.

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For the chocolate topping, simply place chocolate chips in glass heat proof bowl or metal bowl. Place bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir as chocolate melts. Because it’s dark chocolate you’ll end up with stodgy mixture add cream or condensed milk to thin it out and even out the texture. Take off the heat and drizzle completely cooled treats with chocolate. You may also opt to dip the macaroons in the chocolate mixture.

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That’s it! Enjoy!!

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