Hefenkranz (Yeast Wreath)

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Hefenkranz (Yeast Wreath)

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Published prior to 2008

Several years ago, Brinna Sands received a call from a woman in a neighboring town whose young son wanted to do a report on King Arthur. Since she's had a long interest in matters Arthurian, she was more than happy to share her accumulated material. Todd Gunnerson's final presentation was excellent and it was gratifying to see the story of Arthur spark the excitement and imagination of another generation. Glimpses of a world fifteen hundred years in the past can be as exciting to contemplate as a world fifteen hundred years in the future.

As thanks, Todd's mother presented us with a loaf of her mother's Christmas bread, which came from the edge of the Black Forest.

2 eggs
warm water to make 2 cups
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
5 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 to 1 cup golden raisins
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for wash
sliced almonds for the top

Break the eggs into a 2-cup measure and fill the balance with water. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and beat together. Add and stir in the sugar, the yeast, the dry milk and 3 cups of the flour. Cover and let this mixture bubble and expand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the salt, the butter, the lemon rind, the raisins and 2 more cups of flour. Stir until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Put the remaining flour on a kneading surface, keeping some in reserve, and turn the dough out onto it.

Knead for 3 to 4 minutes and then give the dough a rest while you clean and grease (butter or vegetable oil are fine) your bowl. Continue kneading (notice the difference in the dough?) for another 3 to 4 minutes. Then put the dough in the bowl, and turn it over so the top has a thin film of grease on it. Cover the bowl and let dough rise until it has doubled (you can stick your finger in it and it doesn't spring back at you).

Knock the dough down and let it rise again. Because there are now about twice as many yeast organisms as there were to begin with (they weren't just making hot air!), the second rise will be almost twice as fast as the first. The dough will also have twice as many little bubbles of carbon dioxide in it, which will give the loaf a finer texture -- lots of little holes instead of fewer big ones. This is an appropriate kind of texture for a festival bread like this.

After this second rise, knock the dough down, turn it out onto your kneading board and divide it into 3 pieces. Let the dough rest for a minute or two to relax the gluten. Begin rolling each piece out like snakes as far as you can. If the dough becomes reluctant, let it rest and relax again. You want 3 long strands about 1 inch in diameter, which may involve several resting periods.

When the strands are the size you want, braid them together gently and form a circle by weaving the two ends together as well as you can. Place the wreath on a large, well-greased baking sheet and let it rise, covered with a damp cloth, for 45 minutes to an hour.

Just before you place it in your oven, brush the surface with the egg wash and sprinkle on a generous handful of sliced almonds.

Place the wreath in a cold oven, turn the temperature to 400°F for 15 minutes and down to 350°F for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

After this glorious bread is thoroughly cooled, place it in an airtight plastic bag and freeze it until the morning of the day you wish to serve it.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 2, December 1991 issue.


  • star rating 12/15/2011
  • ael5292 from KAF Community
  • Since I last rated this recipe (several days ago), I spoke to someone at the KAF Baker's hotline. The very nice lady on the phone wasn't sure about my question, so she spoke to the magazine editor. The editor said the size of the Bake-and-Give pans has increased since this article was first published in the Baking Sheet (2008), therefore, although a recipe USED to fill two pans nicely (as pictured in the step-by-step photos in the magazine), she now recommends using a full recipe of dough per Bake-and-Give pan. Thanks again, King Arthur, for your amazingly customer service!
  • 12/13/2011
  • ael5292 from KAF Community
  • Have made this twice now. Beautiful and delicious; perfect for a special occasion. Only question is, my loaves come out small (they don't come close to filling the bake-&-give pans, even after the dough doubles). Any ideas?
    Try holding off on a touch of the flour, make the dough just a little bit moister so that it can rise a bit easier. That should help. MJR @ KAF
  • star rating 07/09/2011
  • drjesullivan3211 from KAF Community
  • This also works great in a bread machine, and is much easier than it might appear at first glance. There really is a substantial difference in the glaze between milk and whipping cream. Be sure to get the glazing sugar. That, too, makes a huge difference. Be prepared, though: this will have disappeared within an hour after putting it out.
  • star rating 04/25/2011
  • sonomagrl from KAF Community
  • This is a beautiful special occasion bread. I brought for Easter brunch.
  • star rating 04/23/2011
  • sonomagrl from KAF Community
  • I made this for the first time this morning for tomorrow's Easter brunch at church and it is so beautiful. I took the advise of other posters and made two loaves rather than one giant loaf. I also used orange zest and cranberries rather than lemon zest and raisins. In generally this is very versatile and a beautiful special occasion bread.
  • star rating 02/27/2011
  • Jean from Lake Ariel from KAF Community
  • This is indeed a glorious bread. I wanted a yeast coffee cake and used this recipe and added some candied lemon peel and it was fantastic. The dough rose unbelievably and the result was a large cake/bread approximately 18". The next time we will make 2 wreaths. The glaze topped it off beautifully. I previously thought one of the Panettone dough recipes would work well for Hot Cross Buns, but now I think this dough we be even better.
  • star rating 12/13/2009
  • Kim from Cumberland,Md
  • I used orange zest instead of lemon and cranberries in place of raisins. It made two loaves. Delicious
  • 05/07/2009
  • Linda from Reading, PA
  • I was going over the recipe and ingredients before I make the Hefenkranz and was wondering about the glaze that is in the picture but not in the recipe. What is it and can you print the ingredients and preparation for it please. Thanks
    The glaze on the wreath pictured is from the Vanilla & Coconut Cake: 1 C. glazing sugar, 1 t. vanilla extract, 3 T. heavy cream or 1 1/2 T. milk. The heavy cream will produce a thicker glaze, the milk will produce a more translucent glaze. Brush the glaze on the cooled wreath. Irene at KAF
  • star rating 01/14/2009
  • Cleo Watson from Mississippi
  • I loved this wreath. The flavor and texture was so light and tasty. Do make 2 wreaths - one is too big.