Cranberry Pecan Braided Bread

This festive bread is perfect for Christmas brunch or really any holiday gathering. The loaf is larger than it appears! I brought several slices to a friend and still had too much leftover for two people. The cranberry and pecans pair nicely together and the glaze adds a nice layer of additional sweetness. I had the leftovers for breakfast at work for two or three days but this would also be good slightly toasted if you're at home and have access to the oven. 

Recipe from Floating Kitchen.

-3 to 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
-1 cup milk, warmed to 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit
-1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
-1 cup fresh cranberries
-1 cup pecans
-1/2 cup sugar
-3 tablespoons corn starch
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 cup confectioners sugar
-1 tablespoon water
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and yeast. Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract, and mix for 1-2 minutes on medium speed. Reduce the speed to low-medium, and slowly add the remaining flour until incorporated. Continue mixing in the stand mixer, or knead by hand, for about five minutes for a soft and uniform dough to form.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, brushing the dough as well lightly in oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours. While the dough is rising, add cranberries, pecans, sugar, corn starch and vanilla extract to a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are minced and mixed.

Punch down the risen dough, and lay it on a floured surface. Shape and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 24 inches. Spread softened butter across the surface of the flattened dough, and follow up with an even layer of the cranberry mixture from the food processor.

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray, and a 9 inch springform ring sprayed with cooking spray. Carefully roll up the long side of the dough to form a log. Halve the log lengthwise along the entire length of the log except for the last 3/4 inch.

Turn the halves away from each other so that the cut side is facing up, then lay the right half over the left continuously until the full log is braided, and pinch the end together to close. Place one end of the braided log in the center of the baking sheet, then spiral the rest of the log around the center. Put the springform ring around the loaf, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the dough and bake for 30-40 minutes, it should be nice and brown on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then slide the loaf and parchment paper onto a wire rack to finish cooling. When the loaf is completely cool, whisk confectioners sugar, water and vanilla extract to create a glaze, and drizzle across the loaf; it's then ready to slice and serve.


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