"At Christmas, I decorate these braids with candied cherries and pecans," relates Muriel Lerdal, Humboldt, Iowa.
- 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 2/3 cups water
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the sugar, milk, oil, salt, eggs and 2 cups flour; beat on low speed 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
- Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, combine the dates, water, pecans, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, 7-8 minutes. Stir in preserves; let cool.
- Punch dough down. Turn on a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Roll each portion into a 15-in. x 6-in. rectangle. Place on greased baking sheets. Spread a third of filling down the center third of each rectangle.
- On each long side, cut 1-1/2-in.-wide strips 1-3/4 in. into center. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling; seal ends. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over braids. Yield: 3 loaves.
Originally published as Braided Date Coffee Cake in Taste of Home December/January 1998, p53
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