I love data.
Is that a strange thing to read here in this baking blog? Sure, you might expect me to say I love chocolate. Or butter. And, most certainly, I love King Arthur Flour.
Here's the deal: with so many recipes on our website (over 2,500, at last count), we need to carefully think through which ones we feature, and why.
By feature, I mean which recipes to showcase in this blog. Or on the recipe home page. Or in the hundreds of thousands of emails we send out, or on Facebook, or Instagram. Or pinned to a Pinterest board.
All of our recipes don't enjoy equal time in the spotlight; some are too seasonal. Easter Pie at Christmas? Nah. Some, too niche. Yes, we DO have a recipe for Pani Popo Samoan Coconut Buns, and it's a really, REALLY good recipe – but not that many people are going to bake them compared to, say, Fudge Brownies, right?
So when baking season is really heating up (pun intended), and the crush of traffic to our recipe site feels like Black Friday at Walmart's, it's important to give people what they're looking for.
Like Christmas recipes. Right now. And not just any Christmas recipes: the recipes that we know, from collecting data, are the most searched-for during this particular time period – the second week in December.
This blog post features our up-to-the-moment most-visited holiday bread recipes, in order of popularity. Feel like baking bread? Join the crowd. These recipes are HOT – both literally, and figuratively!
Recipe: Overnight Panettone
Here it is, your classic tall, round Italian panettone, complete with its signature flavor: Fiori di Sicilia, "flowers of Sicily." One difference: we like to substitute our favorite dried fruits – apricot, pineapple, cranberries, and golden raisins – for the more traditional dried peel and citron.
Reader rave: "This is an excellent recipe! And the Fiori di Sicilia adds just the right flavor... everyone loves it!" Marla – Anacortes, WA
Baker’s tip: SAF Gold, an "osmotolerant" yeast designed specifically for sweet breads, really makes a big difference in the rising time for this loaf (or any sweet bread), shortening it considerably. How does SAF Gold work? Sugar likes to absorb water; and when sugar's in bread dough, it pulls water away from yeast, leaving the yeast thirsty. The yeast cells in SAF Gold are bred to require less liquid to function; so they're better able to withstand sugar's greedy ways with water.
Recipe: Cranberry-Vanilla Cinnamon Swirl Bread
A not-too-sweet alternative to coffee cake, this bread is a decorative and tender addition to the holiday breakfast table, an elegant hostess gift, or a delectable coffee-break snack.
Reader rave: "Delicious! And easy to make. I made the dough in the evening and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I filled it with a can of almond schmear since we all love almond paste. I sprinkled some pearl sugar on top before putting it in the oven. The aroma when it was baking was absolutely wonderful, and it tasted great with our weekend breakfast. It reminded me of a Swedish almond paste coffee cake." abc236 – KAF Community
Baker's tip: The method of overlapping sliced rounds of dough to shape this bread – which, don't worry, is fully explained in the recipe – gives it a lovely, festive appearance. And don't limit the technique to this loaf alone: any kind of recipe that asks you to slice a filled log of dough into buns or rolls can easily be fashioned into this pretty wreath.
Recipe: Our Easiest Stollen and Gluten-Free Holiday Stollen
Blog posts: Stollen Moments (regular) and A Cherished Tradition, Updated (gluten-free).
I'm pairing these two recipes, since they're basically the same: one's made with gluten-free flour, one with regular all-purpose flour. While classic stollen is made with yeast, this quick and easy version relies on baking powder for leavening. And the final result? A wonderfully flavorful loaf, with the tender/dense/slightly dry/crumbly texture of classic stollen.
Reader rave, Our Easiest Stollen: "This is the very first time I ever baked stollen. It was very easy and absolutely delicious! Even my husband loves it, and he is very particular. The stollen will now become part of our Christmas dessert tradition... Thank you for this recipe. I cannot wait to bake it again, and give as gifts." Nicehat24 – KAF Community
Baker's tip: It may seem odd that, after brushing this loaf with butter and sprinkling with confectioners' sugar, you wait 30 minutes – then repeat the process. Isn't that overkill? No, not at all. Stollen is characterized by its thick, moist coat of butter and sugar, which helps keep it from drying out as it "ages." While we don't recommend aging the gluten-free stollen for more than 4 to 5 days, the regular version stays good for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe: American-Style Panettone
Blog post: Thinking Outside the (Blue) Box
While most panettone recipes are baked into a large, round loaf, this one is baked in a tube pan. Why? Because panettone, particularly a bigger loaf, can be tricky to bake all the way through without burning the crust, both top and bottom.
Reader rave: "This is the easiest, most delicious panettone recipe I've ever made. I search each year for a recipe that will deliver on flavor, aroma, texture, and moistness. This one fills all my requirements... This is so delicious that I'm making a second loaf to give to my Italian neighbors." dlewis – KAF Community
Baker's tip: This panettone (as well as our Overnight Panettone) is made with a biga, an overnight starter often used when making ciabatta or other Italian loaves. We've found that panettone made with a starter has a moist, fine texture, and rises better than anything with that amount of sugar and fat has a right to. Though the dough still needs a big kick of yeast, the biga gives it the strength to take off and rise, despite the sugar and fat doing their best to retard the whole process.
Recipe: Savory Christmas Cheese Bread
Blog post: Savor It
So often we think "sweet" and "yeast" when we think holiday breads, which means a super-long rise. But this cheese-laced red, green, and gold baking powder bread goes from start to finish in under an hour. Colorful chopped vegetables sprinkled throughout give it a festive appearance, making it perfect for a holiday breakfast.
Reader rave: "I first made this bread last Christmas and my family LOVED it. It was easy to make and looked great on our breakfast table. It has quickly become a holiday tradition for us." pksgirl – KAF Community
Baker's tip: This recipe calls for scallion tops (or chives, or green bell peppers) and sun-dried tomatoes (or red bell peppers, or pimientos) – all finely chopped. Best way to quickly chop small amounts of these types of veggies, especially if your knife skills (or knives) aren't great? A pair of regular scissors (not kitchen shears). You'll be surprised how quickly a pair of scissors becomes your best friend in the knife drawer!
So, tell us – what holiday breads are you planning to bake? Please share in "comments," below. And happy holiday bread-baking!