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Korovai-Wedding Bread-is the traditional centerpiece at Ukrainian weddings. Itís shaped in a round, and topped with a twist or braid, then traditionally decorated with sculpted dough: doves to symbolize love and faithfulness, pine cones to symbolize fertility, and sometimes branches and flowers. Periwinkle, symbolizing purity, is the final garnish.
The following is based on a recipe I found on the Web, and itís particularly apropos at this time of year, with June weddings coming up. The shaping instructions were what intrigued me at first, but the bread itself is very good: slightly sweet and tender, with the barest hint of Ösomething flowery (one taster thought it was Fiori di Sicilia). The instructions look complicated, but donít be put off because itís actually quite easy-one braid, one twist and one round ball-and it yields a beautiful loaf, ready to grace the fanciest table.-T.G.
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm milk
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum extract or 1 to 2 drops butter-rum flavor
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the warm milk, 1 1/4 cups flour, and the yeast. Stir until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place until itís puffy, about 1 hour. Note: Use the dough setting on your bread machine to bring the dough to this point, if desired.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix, then knead, until the dough is soft and smooth. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until itís doubled in bulk.
Traditional Shaping: This method requires a 9-inch round pan at least 3 inches deep; if you have one, go for it! Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Remove one-quarter of the dough, and divide it into three pieces: two handball-sized (about 2 1/4 ounces each), and one golf ball-sized (about 1 3/4 ounces). Set these aside, covered.
Divide the remaining larger portion of dough into three pieces, each about 6 1/2 ounces. Roll each of these pieces into a 24-inch rope. Braid the ropes in a simple three-strand braid, then arrange the braid in a circle around the inside bottom edge of a greased 9-inch springform or other 3-inch deep baking pan.
Roll each of the two handball-sized pieces of dough into a very thin 28-inch rope. Loosely twist the two ropes together, and lay this twist atop the braid, again at the outside edge of the pan. Roll the remaining piece of dough into a smooth ball, flatten it slightly, and place it in the center of the pan; it wonít fill all of the space, which is OK.
Quick(er) Shaping: If you donít have a 9 x 3-inch pan, use this method. Divide the dough into three pieces, each about 8 1/2 ounces. Roll each piece into a 30-inch rope. Braid the ropes, then place the braid in a circle on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, flattening and overlapping the ends slightly.
Cover the pan (or the loaf on the baking sheet) and let the bread rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle it with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, until golden and the internal temperature registers 195°F to 200°F on an instant read thermometer inserted into the center. Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and cool it on a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 45g): 133 cal, 4g fat, 4g protein, 18g complex carbohydrates, 2g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 35mg cholesterol, 212mg sodium, 61mg potassium, 43RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 14mg calcium, 47mg phosphorus
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 3, Early Spring 2002 issue.