Every Christmas for the past 20 years, I've been making and giving these braids as gifts to shut-ins, special friends and teachers.
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) Red Star® Platinum Superior Baking Yeast™
- 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1-1/4 cups warm buttermilk (110° to 115°)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 5-3/4 to 6-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cans (21 ounces each) apple pie filling
- 3/4 cup red-hot candies
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 5 to 6 teaspoons water
- Red candied cherries, optional
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the buttermilk, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs and 2-1/2 cups flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
- Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Roll each into a 13-in. x 9-in. rectangle. Place on greased baking sheets. Remove apples from pie filling. Discard remaining filling or save for another use.
- Place a third of the apples down the center third of each rectangle. Sprinkle with a third of the red-hots. On each long side, but 1 in.-wide strips to the center to within 1/2 in. of the filling. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool.
- For glaze, combine sugar and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle over breads. Decorate with candied cherries if desired. Yield: 3 loaves.
Originally published as Blushing Apple Braid in Best of Country Breads 2000, p82
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