I make this attractive bread to celebrate Santa Lucia Day on December 13. This Swedish custom is the symbolic start of Christmas in Scandinavia, a festival of lights that brightens the short, dark days of winter. I position seven birthday candle holders in my braided loaf before adding candles to prevent wax from melting on top of the bread.
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
- 1/3 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, cubed
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- 2-1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, butter, 1 egg, orange peel, salt, extract and 1 cup flour; beat until smooth. 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; divide into thirds. Roll each portion into a 20-in. rope. Braid the ropes; shape into a wreath and pinch ends to seal. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- For glaze, beat egg; lightly brush over dough. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 12 servings.
Originally published as Braided Wreath Bread in Country Woman Christmas Annual 2006, p33
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