By popular demand: Candy Cane Bread. Not that it's got any candy canes in it. Though it could, if you felt like it. But that's one flavor that I've never tried. This recipe is a family tradition from my parents' house. Two of my sisters asked me about the recipe this year. Actually, Mom did too. For some reason the book that the original recipe was in seems to have "few da coop." So my sad little copy of the recipe needs to be duplicated many times so it can never be lost again. It's missing a bunch of ingredients (like the yeast) but it always seems to turn out anyway. Here's what I really do, not what my recipe says. It's not hard to make. Here's what you do:
For the bread:
2 c sour cream
3/4 c warm water (yeast is really happy at about 100F - skin temp)
1/2 T yeast
1/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 t salt
abt 6 cups flour
Heat sour cream over low heat till lukewarm. You want to be able to put your finger in it. Don't let it get hot or it will kill your yeast. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in warmed sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in remaining flour till springy and easy to handle. Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth. I tried the french bread kneading style I learned from Julia Child's sidekick, and it seemed to like it, though it's a good deal sticker than the french bread dough. Being slammed onto the counter seemed to agree with it. Regular kneading has also worked well in the past. Knead it until it's smooth and nice. I end up taking my time in this step, so although my recipe says 10 minutes, it nearly always takes me longer than that. The slamming kind of kneading wears my arm out a bit, and I probably took 15-20 minutes.
Turn the bread dough around in a greased bowl to coat on all sides, let rise until generously double in size. Punch down. Let rise again till about double again. Divide into 3 balls of dough. Turn on the oven to 350F. Roll one of your dough balls into a rectangle. I like a bit of a skinny rectangle. The one in my pictures was a little wide and harder to work with when I was braiding it. It was still delicious. Or so I'm told: I gave this one away. This recipe is one that you share with friends or take to a nice big party.
Once you have your rectangle, take your kitchen scissors and snip a fringe, about 2 inches deep around the edges. If you haven't got scissors a sharp knife will work. I like to leave sort of a biggish piece at the top to start the braid off with, but don't get carried away. (I remembered that after I did this loaf. Sorry, these pictures don't illustrate that.) Spread fill the center. (Suggestions to follow.)
Take and "braid" your fringes. Fold the top center one straight down, then overlap the others, pulling from alternating sides & covering up the ends of the previous fringe. This will create a braided look as you work. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet. I often have to have help with this step as 4 hands just seems to work better. The bread will be a little floppy at this point and kind of heavy and unstable because of all the snipping and filling. If I don't have anyone to help me move it I'll use a pancake turner on one side and my long angled frosting spreader to help support it as I move it. As you place it on the cookie sheet, carefully nudge it into a candy cane shape. This will be easier if you've kept your rectangle a bit on the skinny side. The rectangle pictured here needed a little bit of nudging and some gentle tugging on the outside of the curve of the hook to get it to take shape.
Bake at 350F for about 15-20 minutes. Brush with melted butter as soon as you take it out of the oven. Let cool completely; drizzle with a thin icing and decorate with red and green M&Ms.
Suggestions for fillings:
*Blackberry jam. I use freezer jam from Bithell Farms. Always a fan favorite.
*Chocolate chips. I painted them with a little melted butter to smooth them out as they melted. It turned out just a little rich for my taste, but also got great reviews.
*Apple pie filling. I sliced & then diced my apples (using my cool corer-peeler-slicer gizmo that I still absolutely love) and put a few pats of butter on them. Then I sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. This was yummy, but eat it quickly as it got soggy after a couple of days.
For the glaze:
Mix a little bit of milk into a small bowl of powdered sugar to make a thin glaze. Drizzle over the bread.