Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cranberry Pistachio Wreath

I should be making cookies. Frying kulkuls. Baking christmas cake. Instead, I laze on the sofa, read books, watch TV...indulging in all those guilty pleasures. Momentary flares of inspiration erupt. This is one of those inspired flashes. The neighbors always bring us an assortment of cookies and usually my gift to them is a festively wrapped bottle of wine. I take a different tack this year. The Kitchn has an intriguing holiday loaf which looks stunning. The neighbors are to be my guinea pigs.

A yeasty dough made with flour, milk, sugar and eggs swirls in the mixer bowl. a generous helping of yeast lets it proof to a puff. You have to roll it out to a large long rectangle. Brandy soaked cranberries, pistachios and butter are spread unevenly over the dough. Start rolling the dough from the bottom. Roll tightly as you push the dough upwards. The roll is then cut in half lengthwise exposing the inner spirals. Lay the spirals flat, then twist them into a loose braid. This lets the wreath form a unique shape as it proofs and rises. Shape the braid into a wreath on a baking sheet. Proofed for a while it bakes to a golden brown. Icing takes it over the top. 

Adapted from The Kitchn's Holiday Breakfast Bread
Makes 2 small wreaths 

1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup warm Water
1/2 cup warm Milk
3 tablespoons Sugar
4 tablespoons softened Butter
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon grated Lemon peel
3 1/2 cups all purpose Flour

Cranberry Pistachio Filling
2/3 cup dried Cranberries
1/4 cup Brandy
1/2 cup Pistachios
4 tablespoons soft Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated Lemon peel

Sugar Glaze
1/2 cup powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice

Make the dough by placing yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add a pinch of sugar, stir to mix and cover with a kitchen towel and keep aside for 3-5 minutes. 

After you see a few bubbles in the yeast mix, add warm milk, sugar, butter, salt, nutmeg powder, eggs and lemon peel. 

Use the paddle to whisk the mix. Beat for a minute.

Add 2 cups of flour to dough and beat for 2 minutes. 

Gradually add the rest of the flour in 1/2 cup increments.

The dough should come away from the edges of the bowl.

Scatter some flour on the counter.

Dump the dough onto the floured surface and knead for 5 minutes till the dough is smooth. Add small amounts of flour if the dough sticks to the counter.

Lightly oil a glass bowl large enough to fit double the amount of dough.

Put the dough in the bowl and turn it so it is coated with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or till dough has doubled in size.  I placed the bowl in the oven with a container of boiling water under it, as the weather was cold.

While dough is proofing, start on the filling by soaking the cranberries in brandy for 1/2 hour.

Lightly pound the pistachios so they break into small pieces.

Stir the butter, flour, sugar and lemon peel in a bowl. 

Drain cranberries and add to butter. Keep filling aside till you are ready to use.

When dough has proofed, scrape it out onto a floured surface.

Divide dough in half. Start by rolling one half of the dough to a 40x8 inch rectangle.

Divide filling in half. Smear the filling in bits over the rectangle. Leave an inch between the crumbled filling and the outer edges.

Scatter pistachios over the dough, pressing them lightly into the filling.

Roll the dough tightly starting from the bottom edge. Since the bottom edge is long, roll upwards, gradually moving right to left or vice versa. 

Pinch the ends close.

Use a sharp knife to cut the roll in half lengthwise.

Turn the dough so the spirals face upwards.

Gently braid the dough.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone sheet or parchment paper.

Carefully place the braid on the baking sheet forming the braid into a wreath. Crimp the ends together.

Repeat process for the second portion of dough.

Place both baking sheets on a warm place to proof for 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350F.

Bake wreaths for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.

Make the glaze by whisking powdered sugar, water and lemon juice.

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 5 minutes,

Drizzle sugar glaze over both wreaths.

Slice and eat the wreath whilst warm for best flavor. It tastes good the next day as well!

The wreaths are visually stunning, eliciting oohs and aahs.The neighbors are to be the lucky recipients. There is so much joy in baking. And much more in giving.  

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