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Dried plums are sweetened, livened up with some lemon, and simmered to make a luscious filling for a tender coffeecake. We use our simple mock braid to surround the filling, which gets a satisfying crunch from the nuts. Better still, the recipe makes two loaves: one for now and one for the freezer or a gift.
2 cups (12 ounces) chopped, pitted prunes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cups (10 5/8 ounces) water
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) lemon juice
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor or vanilla
1 tablespoon (1/4 ounce) granular lecithin (optional)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 1/2 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
egg wash, made by whisking 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons milk
For the filling: Combine the prunes, brown sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to spread, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
For the dough: In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the milk to just-below boiling, and remove it from the heat. Stir in the sugar, salt and butter, and cool to lukewarm.
Manual/Mixer Method: Stir the eggs, flavoring, lecithin, yeast, and half the flour into the lukewarm milk; beat until smooth. Stir in the remaining flour to make a medium-soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it till it’s smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (Or knead it for 6 to 8 minutes in an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook.) Place the dough into an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bread Machine Method: Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bucket of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Examine the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle; it should be smooth and supple. Adjust its consistency with additional flour or milk, as necessary. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.
Assembly: Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 16 x 8-inch rectangle, and place each rectangle onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread half the prune filling down the center third of each rectangle, lengthwise; you’ll have a strip of filling about 5 inches wide and 15 inches long. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of nuts atop the filling on each rectangle.
Shape a mock braid, as follows. Cut 15 slits in the dough along each side of the filling, making strips about 1-inch wide. Fold strips at an angle across the filling, alternating from side to side; you’ll feel as if you’re just beginning to tie your shoe, over and over again. Cover the braids, and let them rise in a warm spot until they’ve doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Apply the egg wash or Bread Shine to the braids; sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar.
Baking: Bake the braids in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack. Yield: 2 braids, about 24 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 1/12 of a braid, 76g): 209 cal, 6g fat, 5g protein, 27g complex carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 33mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 204mg potassium, 65RE vitamin A, 1mg vitamin C, 2mg iron, 33mg calcium, 76mg phosphorus.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 5, Summer 2002 issue.