Sweet Spice Bread
I found this recipe in a cooking magazine and tweaked it a bit. The source is Swedish but I added a bit of Icelandic flair to it. I was impressed with how straightforward it was to make, and how balanced the flavours were. This is an easy Sunday brunch bread.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups whole milk
3 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
7 tablespoons SOFT unsalted butter (no, this is not a typo – you use the same amount for filling as dough)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup chopped prunes, or raisins
1 egg, beaten
decorating sugar or pearl sugar
Melt butter at medium heat, and add to a medium bowl. Heat milk to 115F and add to butter, along with yeast. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, sugar, cardamom and salt. Blend in butter mixture once it foams and gather dough together in a ball.
Prepare filling: stir together spices and sugar to blend. Add in orange zest and stir again. Blend this mixture with the softened butter until well mixed. Chop prunes (if using raisins, leave them whole.)
Once the dough is doubled, turn out again onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 11 x 17 inches / 28 x 43 cm. Spread the spiced butter on the dough, leaving a border all around of 1/2 inch / 1 cm. Distribute the dried fruit evenly on the dough.
Roll the dough from the long end to create a tight tube and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside to rise a second time, about 45 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375F / 190C. Beat the egg and prepare the decorating sugar for topping. Using kitchen shears, cut 3/4 of the way into the dough tube crosswise (i.e. from the side) at 1 inch / 2.5 cm intervals to create a braided sort of look. Spread pieces apart slightly. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with decorating sugar. (You might need to cut it in 2 sections to make it fit on your baking sheet, like I did.)