Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Week Before the BIG DAY.....Christmas Bread!

Well, it's one week before the big day!  What are you all doing today?  This will be the first Saturday that I am able to be home, and get some things done.  I plan on baking two more batches of cookies, while my hubby and kids go out Christmas shopping for their Mama!  I SURE HOPE THEY TOOK MY HINTS!   Anyway, tonight is our Christmas Cantata at church!  I am so very excited, we have been rehearsing since September, and really can't believe how fast the time has gone!  It will be a very special evening, and we are praying that hearts are touched, and many come to know our Lord Jesus Christ through this Cantata.  My son is in the Children's Choir, it's gonna be GREAT!

Every year for Christmas, I make this most delicious Christmas Bread, it's kind of like a "Panetone" Italian Bread.  It has golden raisins, walnuts, and that candied fruit that so many people don't care for, but I enjoy it so!  This bread is yeast based, now don't let that scare you, baking with yeast is so EASY, take it from me.  Over the years I have learned to make the most delicious breads, and cakes with yeast, just takes some learning, and practicing, don't worry I will give you step by step! The bread is delicious right out of the oven, and if you don't eat it all then, you can toast it for breakfast the next day, and put lots of butter on it!  YUMMO!

Christmas Bread

4 cups flour (I like to use bread flour because I have a 20lb bag of it in my garage!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
1 pkg (2 1/2 tsp) RAPID RISE YEAST - NOT ACTIVE DRY YEAST there's a this recipe it calls for Rapid Rise.

Add all of this into a large bowl, and if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer like I do, put the dough hook on, if you don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can do this all by hand, just will take you a little longer, but no worries....but it's Christmas, make your life easier, and ASK SANTA for a KITCHEN AID MIXER!!!!

1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk

Heat the butter and milk on the stove until 120 - 130 degrees warm, make sure it's NOT HOTTER than that, it will KILL The YEAST, now don't worry, you will be fine, if it's hotter, just let it cool a little.  I remember whenever I read this in a recipe I would never make it, but I got over my fears and bought a candy thermometer, and it worked out perfect every time :)   Add the butter mixture to flour mixer and mix on low, then increase the speed to 2. - Yes and this is the time when all the flour goes EVERYWHERE! 

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup candied fruit (supermarkets have this stuff in the baking isle around this time)
1 cup chopped very fine walnuts

Add the raisins, walnuts and candied fruit.Scrap down the sides of the bowl.  Now what is the dough doing?  Is it forming into a ball around the dough hook? Does the dough look like a thick dough or does it look like a cake batter?  If it looks like a CAKE BATTER, then you need to add a little more flour, about 1/4 cup, when the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is wrapped around the dough hook like a ball,  it's all kneaded, and ready.  The dough still may be a  little sticky, just flour your hands, and take the dough hook off and in the bowl knead the bread a little, making sure it all comes together.  Grease with 1 TBS oil a large bowl, and put the bread dough in and turn over so its coated with oil.  Cover with foil and let rise in a warm space.  I usually heat up the oven for 3 minutes, then shut it off, and put the dough in there to rise, it's a great TIP!!!!

All kneaded and ready for the first rise!

When it's all nicely risen, you will be able to tell, it will double in size and look all puffy. Punch it down and deflate it, I know you are saying why? It's all pretty and risen, yes but now you must shape it and let it rise AGAIN in a cake pan!

Dough rising in bowl, see how big it gets!!!!

Take it out of the bowl, and either divide it in half for 2 breads, or whole for one big bread.  Flatten it with your hands, and kind of make it into a football size, and put them in 2 GREASED loaf pans, or just shape it into a snake-like rope, and put the whole thing in one big GREASED cake pan, like a bundt pan.  Cover lightly (just lay the piece over, don't wrap) with a piece of GREASED wax paper or foil, it has to be greased so the risen dough doesn't stick to the foil or wax paper....another great TIP!  Let it rise until it's high and about 1 inch over the rim of the baking pan........about 1 hour or so.

Eggwash - 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp milk or half & half - right before baking, brush carefully over the top of the bread When I say carefully, I mean brush it lightly, cause you could deflate the risen bread...take it from me, I have done this!

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