Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Almond Braided Bread

I'm not a nutty person. I mean, I probably am in the "crazy" way...but aside from hazelnuts and cashews (peanuts don't count because they're legumes), I don't really like nuts. At all. Including almonds.

But almond flavored things are in another category entirely. Bliss by any other name would be called almond paste. Any person who loves the smell of almond extract as much as we do is certainly a kindred spirit!

This recipe was created by my Poppa, but we have added even more almond flavor!

Braided Almond Bread Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
6 Tbsp. of sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup milk
1 (8 oz) can of Solo almond paste (It took Mama, two managers, the deli guy and a produce girl to find where in Publix this stuff was- at our store it was by the spaghetti sauce!)  You won't find it in BiLo, Food Lion, or Wal-Mart.  Publix also has the imported brand, but Solo is less expensive (about four dollars a can) and tastes just as wonderful.
about 6 cups of flour
1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
3 cups powdered sugar
another tsp or so of almond extract
blanched almonds

If you've read the basic bread recipe, this actually isn't that much different- the bread dough is almost exactly the same; it just has more butter and sugar than the original recipe. It's so similar, in fact, that I pretty much copied the first few steps from the original recipe and posted them here (with a few adjustments). Ah, a shortcut. I love shortcuts. : ) For those of you who are familiar with the basic bread recipe, differences between the two breads are in bold.

Step 1: Put 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 teaspoons salt, and 6 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan. Heat until milk begins to bubble and then set aside to cool. Add two teaspoons of almond extract.

Step 2: Pour either 1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast into a bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of hotter-than-lukewarm-but-cool-enough-to-touch water and stir.

Step 3: After heated mixture has cooled, add to yeast mixture.  Then add a few cups of flour and mix.

Keep stirring and adding flour until the dough looks like this:

Then, sprinkle some flour on your (clean!) work space and knead, adding more flour until it reaches the correct consistency. It should feel rubbery, but not sticky.

Step 4: Pour a capful of oil into a large bowl, and place your lump of dough into it. Rotate the bread dough so that the oil covers its entire surface; however, do not mix the oil into the bread dough. Add a little more oil if needed.  Cover with a towel and let rise for an hour.

Step 5: After the dough has risen, punch it down and let rest for another 15 minutes.  This removes any air pockets and will prevent your bread from getting "holes".

This is about what it should look like after an hour.

Step 6: After the dough has rested, divide the almond paste into three equal piles.

Then, do the same with the bread dough.

Step 7: Roll the first lump of dough into a log, like so...

...and then roll it out using a rolling pin.

Step 8: Take one of the three lumps of almond paste and  pull apart into small, bite-sized pieces. Press the pieces onto one side of the rolled-out dough. Then, fold the other side over to make a roll. Make sure none of the almond paste slips out! (If it does, it will ooze out of the sides of the bread in the oven and that will not look pretty)

Repeat with the other three lumps of dough and almond paste.

Argh...I can't turn this picture right-side up...grrr
After all three rolls are ready, braid them together like so:

Step 9: Very gently rub some oil over the top of the bread to keep it from drying out.  Let rise for an hour. Every once in a while, rub a little more oil over it. We put ours in the top rack of our turned-off oven, with a bowl of water on the bottom to keep the bread moist.

Here is what the bread looked like after it rose for the second time.
We need a bigger cookie sheet...
Step 10: After the bread is done rising, rub one last bit of oil over the dough, and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Step 11: Now it's time to make the glaze! Mix the powdered sugar with a teaspoon of almond extract and just enough water to make a thin icing.

After the bread had cooled, generously brush on the glaze.

Working fast, while the glaze is still wet, sprinkle with blanched almonds.

And ta-da! There you have it. Delicious, beautiful almond bread.

And now, after writing this post, I'm really hungry.

                                                                   ~ Hayden

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