Christmas Brioche

This tender, sweet bread has been called “Christmas” because the dough can be slapped, pounded, snipped, and twisted into innumerable holiday shapes from Santas to reindeer. However, you can also form your own designs of bunnies, pumpkins, or simple flat, round loaves. The “snowflake” design described here actually is attractive for any season of the year.

1 package yeast, active dry or compressed 1/4 cup warm water (lukewarm for compressed yeast)

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) soft butter 2/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons grated orange peel 1/2 teaspoon salt

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled

About 51/4 cups unsifted regular all-purpose flour

Beaten egg white

Mix yeast with warm water and set aside to soften. With a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, orange peel, and salt until fluffy. Beat in eggs and yolks, a few at a time, blending well. Then add yeast and milk and gradually mix in 41/2 cups of the flour; you may have to work in the last portion of flour with your hands or a spoon.

Turn dough onto a heavily floured (about 1/2 cup) board and knead until smooth and quite elastic, about 15 minutes. Add more flour if necessary.

Butter a large bowl; turn dough over in it to coat surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Snowflake Design-. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead into a smooth ball. Pinch off a lump of dough about 3 inches in diameter to use for decorating and reshape both pieces into smooth balls. Flatten large ball with hands to a 1/2 to 1-inch-thick circle on buttered foil or a 14-inch pizza pan.

Invert a bowl (about half the diameter of the dough circle) in the center of the dough circle. Make about 20 evenly spaced cuts with floured kitchen scissors around the dough in sunburst or petal fashion, from the outside of the circle in to the bowl. Twist each of the 20 “petals” tight (several twists each). Remove the bowl.

Slip foil (if pan is not used) onto rimless baking sheet (one sheet or two baking sheets overlapping).

To decorate, form little pieces of dough from small ball into teardrop shapes by pulling surface of dough to underside, so base is pointed. With a floured finger poke holes into the center of the large cake of dough (where the bowl rested); nest teardrops in them.

Let dough rise, uncovered, in a warm place until well puffed, 30 to 45 minutes. Brush surface with beaten egg white. Bake in a 325° oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until richly browned. Serve hot, or let cool on a wire rack and wrap airtight.

The loaf keeps well for a week at room temperature; freeze for longer storage. To reheat, place uncovered loaf on a baking sheet in a 325° oven for 25 minutes; pull apart do not cut to serve. Makes 1 large loaf.


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