Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Tree Bread

We were in Dallas with Mohit's family for Christmas and I got to introduce them to Christmas tree bread! My family's tradition was always to eat the bread on Christmas morning, before we opened presents. It is quite possibly my favorite part of Christmas! I think Mohit's family enjoyed it too, because both trees were eaten by the time the last present was opened. :)

One note if you haven't worked with yeast before, the temperature is really important to make sure the yeast do their thing. I recommend getting a thermapen instant read thermometer, Mohit bought one and it is so much better than a slow candy thermometer. If you don't have any thermometer you can use hot tap water as a guide, if you know how hot your hot water heater is (I think most are around 120) so if you run your water till it is at it's hottest you can get a feel for what 120 is like.

Oh - If you ever want to make this bread at a time other than Christmas you can braid strands of dough into a ring instead of making a tree. Sometimes we have used this as a Mardi Gras King Cake. OK - recipe time already!!

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk, plus some extra for frosting
½ cup shortening
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1) In large bowl combine 1 ½ cups flour and yeast.
2) In saucepan heat 1 cup milk, shortening, granulated sugar, and salt until warm (115-120 degrees), stirring constantly.
3) Add to dry mixture. Add eggs. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for ⅓ minute, scarping side of bowl constantly.
4) Beat at high speed for 3 minutes.
5) By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
6) Place in greased bowl, turn once to grease surface.
7) Cover, let rise till double (1 hour) in a warm place (like next to a heat vent or in the oven).
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8) Punch down, cover. Let rest 10 minutes.
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9) On a floured surface roll to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Cut dough into fifteen 1 inch wide strips. Make tree by using the longest strip for the tree trunk. Use the other strips to make branches of decreasing size from the bottom to the top.
10) Let the dough rise in a warm place till double (about 1 ¼ hours). (I do this overnight so the bread is ready to bake in the morning.)
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11) Bake at 400 degrees 12-15 minutes.
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12) Cool. Mix powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make an icing of spreading consistency. Drizzle icing over the trees. Top with colored sugar.

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