Swedish Bread

swedish breadI love baking bread in the winter. It makes the whole house seem warmer and cozier, and warm homemade bread is one of my favorite things to eat. This is an old recipe that my Mom and I used to make when I was younger, and I hadn’t made in many years until this Christmas. It’s got egg, milk, and sugar in it, which make the dough rich and sweet, and it tastes like almonds. You can make regular loaves, or braid them like I did in the picture above if you want to be fancy!

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)
½ cup (113g) melted butter or margarine
⅔ cup (133g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
405 mL (2-1/4 cups) hot milk
2-1/4 tsp dry yeast
¼ cup (60mL) warm water
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
7 cups (910g) white flour (approximately)

Optional: 1 egg yolk, 1/4 cup almonds (for topping)

Instructions
Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and hot milk in a large bowl and let cool to lukewarm. Stir the yeast into the warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.

Add the dissolved yeast, egg, almond extract, and 3 cups (390g) of the flour to the milk mixture and mix vigorously. Add 3 more cups (390g) of flour and mix well.

Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead for a minute or two, and let rest for 10 minutes. Adding the remaining flour only if the dough is too sticky, resume kneading until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch down, knead for a minute or two, and shape into two loaves. Place in two buttered 9×5 inch loaf pans, cover, and let rise until double in bulk again. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

For Braided Bread: After the dough has risen for the first time, punch it down, knead for a minute or two, and divide it into six equal pieces. Stretch and roll each piece with your hands until you have six long rolls of uniform size. Make two braids with them, pinching the three piece of dough firmly together when you start braiding and again when you finish. Tuck each end underneath the loaf. Place on greased cookie sheets, cover, and allow to rise until double in size. Brush with 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake for only 25 to 30 minutes.

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Cranberry Almond Biscotti

biscottiThese were the first biscotti I learned to make. Since then I’ve adapted this recipe to make several other flavors, so feel free to experiment! For bakers in Japan, these cookies are terrific because they use oil instead of butter.

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup almonds, chopped (50g or 1.75 oz)
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Instructions

Mix olive oil, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract in a bowl. Add egg and mix well. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until combined. Batter may be thick. Add almonds and cranberries and mix until evenly spread through the batter.

Spread batter onto a baking sheet in a log shape, about 30cm / 12 in long and 12cm / 5 in wide. Bake at 150 C (300 F) for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Slice diagonally with a sharp knife. You can make them as thin or thick as you like, but if they are too thin they tend to break in half, so be careful.

Lay the sliced biscotti on their sides, and bake again at 130 C (275 F) for 10 to 15 minutes until dry.

Traditionally, biscotti are eaten dipped into tea, coffee, cocoa, or wine, but they are also delicious on their own.

As I mentioned, you can make almost unlimited flavors of biscotti. Here are some of the combinations I have tried myself (but I have lots of other ideas, so be creative!). I think it’s best to have some kind of nut for the crunch, and I usually use dried fruit. You can add a citrus flavor with fresh orange or lemon zest. Some people also put chocolate in the batter or dip the bottom of the finished biscotti in chocolate, but I haven’t tried it.

– almond
– almond/cranberry
– almond/orange
– blueberry/lemon/lavender/walnut
– pistachio/cranberry
– banana walnut