Years ago, I ran a Bed and Breakfast in Ashfield Massachusetts. Ashfield is at the foot of the Berkshire Hills in the western part of the state.
This was with my first husband and we loved the place. It was a thirty-one room Georgian mansion with eight guest rooms and four shared (clawfoot soaking tubs bathrooms). It sat on ten acres. I was totally in my element, cooking and baking all day long. It was a lot of work and I am happy that we experienced inn keeping when we were younger.
During the holidays, we were packed with family - visiting their families who lived in town. Holiday mornings, I set out a big buffet and always made this braid. Well I made several. It was a hit and I am thrilled to share the recipe with you. I have been meaning to for a long time.
It can be made a day ahead and refreshed - sweet doughs are good that way. They are sturdy.
The braid can also be made with croissant or danish dough if you have any hanging around in your freezer - even scraps work because we don’t need a the dough to achieve a lot of volume.
That being said - I encourage you to try this sweet dough - it’s rich and orange scented.
Let me know what you think when you try it and let me know if you have questions.
Happy Holidays and Happy Baking! Colette
Equipment: Stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk, bowl scraper or spatula, 1/4 sheet pan lined with lightly buttered parchment paper or a greased one gallon sized ziplock bag (this is for storing the dough overnight or freezing).
150g Milk - warmed to 90 degrees
2 Large eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
14g Instant yeast or 16g active dry yeast
90g granulated sugar
454g All purpose flour
11g Fine sea salt
Zest of 1/2 orange
Place milk, eggs, vanilla extract and yeast in mixer bowl. Lightly whisk and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, flour, salt and orange zest.
Mix dough on speed 2 for 4 timed minutes until it clears the side of the bowl. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky - that is correct.
Place the dough on at the parchment paper or in a buttered bowl.
To use the same day (use the bowl), cover and ferment for 1 hour at room temperature. Or refrigerate the dough (on sheet pan, well wrapped)for 8-16 hours. The dough can also be frozen for a week. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Equipment: Small saucepan, whisk, wooden spoon.
170g (6 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
99g (3.5 ounces) Granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
Juice and zest of one orange
Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan.
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop open and the filling has a jam like consistency.
Remove from heat and cool. The filling keeps one week in the refrigerator.
Shaping the braid:
Equipment: 1/2 sheet tray lined with parchment paper, rolling pin, dusting flour, ruler, bench scraper, dry brush, wet brush and pastry wheel, proofing bag, mug of steaming water 3/4 full
Sweet Dough is best shaped cold. So the braid is formed with the dough right out of the refrigerator - this makes it easy to shape and you won’t need to use a lot of flour to roll it out.
But, that being said, the dough can be made start to finish in a few hours. It may need a little extra flour to roll out - use just enough to keep it from sticking.
Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Roll the dough out to a 14” x 10” rectangle. Transfer to lined sheet tray. Spread the cranberry filling down the middle - a 3” wide swath of filling is good. Using your pastry cutter, cut 1” strips on either side of filling. Start at one end, cross the bottom strips and then criss cross the strips, tucking in ends until you get to the other end. There is a video of this below.
2. Place the tray in the proofing bag and slide the mug of steaming water along side it, carefully. Seal the bag. Set a timer for 60 minutes. When the dough is cold, it takes a while to proof. If you are making this braid without chilling the dough - it will take about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
***Here are some notes on sweet dough, they take a while to rise and when ready the cut edge of the strips will look slightly lifted and expanded. The rise is not at all dramatic. The dough will take on a slight marshmallow texture too - like all our other yeasted doughs.
3. Next egg wash and bake - For sweet doughs the egg wash I like is one egg beaten until smooth - with a splash of milk or cream. Sweet doughs can take on color in the oven quick so a little milk in the wash helps slow all that caramelization. Set your timer for 15 minutes, double pan at this point and continue to bake until light golden brown - depending on the oven this can be 15-20 more minutes. Here we are looking for color - no pale dough in the overlapping strips - just an overall light golden brown.
The braid can be made the day before, wrap well and store overnight at room temperature, then refresh the next day in a 350 degree oven for 5 minuted. Ice with flat icing. Pour mugs of delicious coffee and enjoy. This will be a hit at your holiday breakfast - I promise.
Vanilla Bean Flat Icing with Orange Variation:
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, 1 ounce melted butter, 2 ounces milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. Can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. ***You can replace the orange juice with milk and add some orange zest if you prefer.