I found this lovely bread recipe on the Land O'Lakes website (yes, I love butter). It has an absolutely gorgeous crumb: delicate, soft, and tender, but it's still sturdy and light. It's just slightly sweet and fragrant with cardamom. The braids are each filled with a sweet, fruity filling made of brandy and apricots. —Posie (Harwood) Brien
2 hours 45 minutes
For the bread
(1 stick) unsalted butter
(2 packages or 4 1/2 teaspoons) instant or active dry yeast
6 1/2 cups
all-purpose flour, divided, plus more as needed
For the filling & egg wash
2 1/2 cups
dried apricots, finely chopped
Swedish pearl sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
In This Recipe
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cardamom, butter, evaporated milk, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Set aside and let cool until it is warm but not hot.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
Add 3 cups of flour, the sour cream, eggs, and the warm butter mixture to the bowl of yeast. Stir until well-combined.
Stir in the remaining flour (a little at a time) until the dough is stiff enough to handle. It'll still be quite sticky, so be careful not to add too much flour right away: Add a bit at a time and see how it changes the consistency. You'll add a bit more flour later when you roll it out, so it's better to air on the side of too sticky here.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Transfer the bowl of dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
To make the filling, combine the water, brandy, and apricots in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until the mixture is thick and the apricots are softened. Set aside.
When the dough has risen (it should have about doubled in size), divide it in half.
Take the first half of dough and roll it out into a rectangle approximately 9 by 20 inches. Using a sharp knife, cut it into thirds lengthwise (so you have three strips that are 3 by 20 inches). Spoon about 3 tablespoons of filling down the center of each strip. Fold the strip over and seal it tightly by pinching. You should now have three 20-inch long filled strands of dough.
Braid the three strands of dough together tightly, then meet the two ends together to shape the braids into a circle. Pinch the ends together to form a wreath. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rise for 20 minutes.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F and whisk together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash lightly over the surface of the dough (optional: sprinkle Swedish pearl sugar over the egg wash if you want to get fancy).
Bake the loaf for 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool for at least 15 minutes, then slice and eat!