Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Almond Braid


I have always loved making home-made bread.  I think there is just something so wonderfully homey about the smell of bread baking.   So for me, a loaf of bread is one of the funnest gifts to give.  Many years ago I happened on this recipe for Almond Braid and have made it for so many gifts and occasions.  I decided to share it with you today.


You will need to start with your bread dough.  (You can use a favorite basic bread dough recipe or you can purchase frozen bread dough and use that!)  Place your dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise until double.  (This will vary in time depending on if you're using fresh dough of if it was frozen dough.)  


While your dough is rising, make your almond filling:

In a mixing bowl combine:

eight ounces of cream cheese
1 egg yolk (reserve the egg white for later)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon flour

Mix together with hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.


When your dough has risen, pour it out onto a floured surface and roll out your dough to a nice rectangle.  Mine was about 9 inches wide by about 12 inches long.  


Gently pick it up and place it in a buttered 11 x 14 jelly roll pan.


Using a pizza cutter, VERY lightly score your bread dough lengthwise into 3 equal portions.  Do NOT cut through the dough, just lightly score it.  


Now, take your pizza cutter and cut your dough into 1 inch diagonal sections on each side, up to the scored lines.  If your pizza cutter has a hard time cutting all the way through, you can also do this with kitchen scissors.  (It looks tricky, but it is very easy.  Your diagonal sections do not need to be perfect either.)



Place your almond filling in the center section stopping about an inch from the top and the bottom. 


Now, this is where we start braiding.  (And its not really a braid, more like a criss-cross fashion. )  
Take the very tiny little middle section on the top and fold it down (kind of like the flap of an envelope) and then take a diagonal piece from each side and criss-cross over that.   (The purpose of folding over that top flap is to keep the filling from spreading out when it cooks.)



Keep going in this way, just taking a diagonal piece from each side and crossing over the other piece.


When you are two or three sections from the bottom, take that bottom center section and fold it like you did the top (closing the "envelope" flap again).  Fold those bottom two diagonal pieces in also.  Then, go back up and cross in the remaining two pieces from each side.


 Your "braid" will look something like this.  
Cover it lightly with a tea towel and let it rise for 15 minutes or so.


Now, take your reserved egg white and beat with a fork til foamy.  Brush the egg white carefully all over the dough, covering every inch so it takes on a shiny appearance.


Sprinkle with sliced almonds and raw sugar.  (Or leave the almonds off.  Don't leave off the raw sugar though!!)


Pop in a 375 degree oven and bake until golden brown; about 15 - 20 minutes.   This is positively yummy fresh out of the oven, but yummier the next day after the filling has had a chance to set up a bit.  


I wrapped my cooled braid in saran wrap and sealed it up tight.  Then I lightly wrapped it in unbleached parchment paper and tied some twine around it.


I made my gift tag by printing a greeting on an Avery label, adhering that to a red card stock circle, punching a hole in the tag and threading it to the twine. 


I added some fresh greenery and berries.  Perfect Holiday gift!  Mine is going to our closest neighbors that live on the adjoining farm!



It's really the perfect gift to give on Christmas Eve because it is the absolute best breakfast for Christmas Morning!  

Happy Holidays to you and yours!


14 comments:

  1. That looks delicious, and your neighbor is a lucky recipient! I love the smell of bread baking too! It is very comforting.

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  2. Looks wonderful! I learned to make bread from my grandma using a large yellow pyrex bowl. I inherited that bowl when she passed away, and continued to use it for bread making for several years. It was a sad day when the bowl was accidentally broken. Seeing your picture brought the memories flooding back! Love your blog and your kitchen! What a warm, happy place! Wanda

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  3. Sounds delicious and pretty too! :)

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  4. Oh my, this looks so delicious and so pretty all packaged up....I will
    definitely give it a try...also, I wanted to comment on your beautiful
    completely lived in kitchen and tell you it's gorgeous, it's so you!!
    I love it that your red stool is placed where everyone sits while you cook and bake and
    above that is a special place for your grand daughters to display their art work on
    and your island is left empty for everyone to lean on, sit on and pile their junk on!!!!!!!!!
    home, sweet, home!!!!....just love it!
    Corinne

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  5. Thank you so much Dori for both showing & telling us how to make this yummy bread! I would love to use your favorite bread dough recipe if you choose to share it with us gals! Have a beautiful Christmas with your family.
    ~ Laurie

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  6. You know Dori I've always wondered how to do that braid! Thank you so much. I think I could actually do this now. Your bread is just beautiful.

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  7. That is so pretty. I've always wondered how to do that too...I just wish I was your neighbor! Merry Christmas!

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  8. What gorgeous bread! And it doesn't look too difficult to make (except for the dough part!). What a pretty presentation too. Your neighbors are lucky to receive this homemade gift. Merry Christmas,
    Claudia

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  9. So pretty and GREAT photos with directions! Thank you...would love your bread recipe too!
    Patty

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  10. How lucky the recipient of such a beautiful treat. It is truly art. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas.
    xoxo
    Lisa
    Leeshideaway.blogspot.com

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  11. I want to be your neighbor. For many reasons, wouldn't that be so much fun???

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  12. Dori, I am making these for the second year in a row, and I think this has become my trademark Christmas gift to neighbors! It is just sooo good! Thanks for the recipe!

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