Mardi Gras King Cake, named for the three kings who came to bring gifts to Jesus, is traditionally served during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and throughout the South. Not only is it decorated with the colors of the festival, but it also has a hidden trinket in the dough. I’ve used an almond, but in New Orleans bakers often use a ceramic or plastic doll to represent the baby Jesus. The person who gets the slice with the trinket is responsible for making the King Cake the following year.
There are many versions of this sweet bread, depending on the traditions of different families. Our version from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day is made with Brioche dough which has nutmeg, cinnamon, and raisins added into it. The dough can be Braided and/or formed into a Couronne (crown shape) as I have done here. Some bakers even use a cream cheese and praline filling, but we went with a more traditional filling.
When I was growing up in Connecticut I’d spend a fair amount of time in New York City. Every time I’d get off the train I’d get a pretzel from a cart outside the station. That, and a trip to the Papaya King, were enough to get me through the day. It was a cheap, tasty and filling snack for a teenager.
Part of the characteristics of that perfect New York pretzel is the way they look. Philadelphia has a pretzel culture too, but you’d never confuse it with its northern cousin, due to the shape. Philly has figure-8 knots and New York has … pretzel shape. Admittedly, it’s nostalgia that makes me partial to the New York version. And you really should serve these homemade soft pretzels with mustard to complete the experience. I like a grainy mustard and that is just not at all traditional. Oh well.
We are big fans of sweet dough (especially around the most wonderful time of the year), and while we often choose gigantic cinnamon rolls, we will never say no to monkey bread. Over the years we’ve made Classic Monkey Bread, Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread, and even Crock Pot Monkey Bread, and now we are adding Panettone Monkey Bread to the list. The Panettone dough comes from our Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five book (a fabulous Holiday gift, wink wink), and works well in this adaption; it’s studded with orange, lemon, and dried fruit, coated in sugar and butter and then more sugar and butter. It’s the perfect way to start out Christmas break (or even just Monday morning).
1 1/2 cups (340g) lukewarm water (100F or below) 1 tablespoon (10g) Red Star Platinum Yeast 1 tablespoon (17g) kosher salt 1/2 cup (170g) honey 8 large eggs, room temperature 1 cup (2 sticks | 225g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled 1 teaspoon lemon extract 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated 2 cups (340g) mixed dried and/or candied fruit (I used a mixture of dried cranberries and candied orange peel, but golden raisins, dried pineapple, dried apricots, and dried cherries are all good options.) 7 1/2 cups (1065g) all-purpose flour
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons Triple Sec (optional)
Generously butter a 9 x 4 x 4-inch Pullman Pan or 10-cup Bundt pan.
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Divide the dough into about 30 equal pieces. Roll the dough into small balls. If the dough is sticking to your hands, coat your palms with a small amount of soft butter. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a bowl. Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a second bowl. Drop the dough balls into the butter and then coat them with the cinnamon sugar.
Place the balls in the prepared pan.
Allow the dough to rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F, with a rack placed int he center of the oven.
Just before putting the pan in the oven, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and then add any remaining cinnamon sugar, the brown sugar, and the salt. Add the triple sec and stir to combine.
Set the pan on a baking sheet, just in case the caramel bubbles over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until caramelized and set.
Allow the bread to cool for 5 minutes.
Invert the loaf onto a serving tray.
Lesaffre Yeast Corporation (Red Star) provided yeast samples for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities.
Our Holiday Star Bread was quite popular last year, so we decided to come up with yet another version: this one with pumpkin filling and sprinkled with sanding sugar. Our original version is filled with sugar and holiday spices, but we’ve also tried it with jam and Nutella, so if you are interested in playing around with recipe, there is also room for your own interpretation! This beautiful bread made it into our newest book, Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and it is one of the prettiest, easiest and most sensational breads to make for a family gathering or work party.
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)
For the pumpkin filling: Combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, butter, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring continuously until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (the mixture is quite thick, so you need to look for slow bubbles). Once the puree is bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove the puree from the heat. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.
For the star bread: Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll the pieces into balls, and let rest for 20 minutes, covering with plastic wrap.
With a rolling pin, roll out all the dough balls into 10-inch circles. Place one of the circles on a piece of parchment paper. Put a couple tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture on the round and spread evenly.
Place another circle on top of the first circle, and spread a couple more tablespoons of pumpkin. Repeat with one more circle, then place the final circle on top. (I like to chill the star for 20 minutes at this point; it helps make cutting and twisting a little easier.)
Place a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter (or other round object) in the center of the circle, and then use a bench scraper to cut the circle into 16 equal strips (starting at the circle and out to the end), cutting through all the layers.
Take two pieces of dough, and twist them away from each other twice. Repeat around the whole circle.
Pinch the ends of the pairs of strips firmly together to create the star (you should end up with 8 points).
Remove the biscuit cutter. Transfer the star on the parchment to baking sheet. Cover the star gently with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a bit puffy. During this time, preheat the oven to 400F. Before putting into the oven, brush the star with egg wash and sprinkle the center with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Best eaten the day it’s made.
Lesaffre Yeast Corporation (Red Star) provided yeast samples for recipe testing, and sponsors BreadIn5’s website and other promotional activities.
A popular recipe on our site is the Raspberry Brioche Braid, a pastry Zoe came up with to mimic a Danish braid without quite as much work. Since berries are now behind on us and we look forward to cold days and even colder nights, I decided to try my hand at an Apple version of Zoe’s creation. Since my children devoured the braid in moments I can assure you that is it in fact, quite delicious, and a perfect way to start a day, or end one.
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water) for topping braid
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
To make the jam: Place the grated apple, apple cider, sugar and salt into a pan and stir together. Simmer over a medium/low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until most the juice has cooked into the apples. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. (The mixture will still look very ‘grated’, but the apples will continue cooking as the bread bakes.)
To make the cream cheese filling: mix the cream cheese, zest and sugar in a bowl until smooth.
Take a one pound piece of dough from the dough bucket (weighing on a scale is the easiest way, but if you don’t have one, a grapefruit-sized piece will do) and roll the dough into a 9 x 12-inch rectangle. Make sure to use enough flour that the dough doesn’t stick to the surface or the rolling pin. TRANSFER THE ROLLED OUT DOUGH TO A SHEET OF PARCHMENT. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough, about 1 inch wide.
Top the cream cheese with about 1/2 cup of the apple filling. You can add more, but some may leak out of the braid as it is baking. There may be a little jam left over to serve with the baked braid.
Cut 1/2-inch thick strips of dough with a pastry or pizza cutter. (Try to get an even amount on both sides, but it’s okay if it doesn’t happen.)
Lightly twist the top two strips of dough, then cross them over the top of the filling. Do not pull the dough too thin or it may break as it rises and bakes. Continue that same routine of twisting the pieces and crossing them over each other on top of the filling, until you are at the bottom. If you find an odd piece of the dough, that doesn’t have a mate, just twist it and place it over the filling. When you get to the end, tuck the loose pieces under the loaf, so they are secure and won’t pop out when baking.
Place the braid and parchment onto a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic and allow to rest for about 1 1/2 hours.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Just before baking, brush the loaf gently with the egg wash.
Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes or until golden brown (I like to bake this braid on two layers of baking sheets, to keep the bottom from browning too quickly). Allow to cool before topping with the icing.
To make the icing: place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Combine the melted butter, water, brandy, and salt together, and pour it over the powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. It should come off a spoon in a thin drizzle.
Red Star Yeast sponsored this post, and provided yeast samples for recipe testing.
Challah’s become a familiar American bread, brought here by Jewish immigrants, and round ones like these are traditional on Jewish New Year, which starts Sunday night. In my family (and in Jewish bakeries), the Challah is studded with raisins or other sweet fruit, in the hopes of ringing in a sweet and happy new year. For today’s rather unconventional baking option–in the crockpot–Sarah decided to skip them, to help the crockpot succeed in baking the loaf all the way through. We’ve been putting crockpot options in our books ever since we did the second edition of our basic book (The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day). The craziest part about crockpot baking for us: the crockpot version of our basic French round loaf (boule) was the most popular post ever on this website.
A NOTE ON FLOUR FOR CHALLAH: There’s just one difference between the challah dough in Holiday and Celebration in 5, and the original in The New Artisan Bread in 5, and that’s bread flour. Holiday and Celebration has recipes for some complicated shapes, and the bread flour option gives you a drier, firmer dough that’s a little easier to handle and shape. The original, made with the same amount of all-purpose flour works great in the crockpot too. And if you’re looking for whole grain challah, check out The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, or even gluten-free challah, in Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Crock Pot Challah
Challah Dough (makes about 4 loaves) 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
7 cups unbleached bread flour (or all-purpose, see note above)
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container.
Mix in the flour, using a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle), a Danish, dough whisk, or a wooden spoon, until all of the flour is incorporated.
Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.
The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate the container and use over the next 5 days.
Three-Strand Challah Crock Pot Braid
On baking day: Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound piece. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Dust each piece with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
Gently roll and stretch each dough ball, dusting with flour so your hands don’t stick to it, until you have a long rope about 3/4 inch thick, about 15 inches long. You may need to let the dough relax for 5 minutes so it won’t resist your efforts.
Lay the three ropes side by side and, starting from the middle of the loaf, pull the left strand (rope) over the center strand and lay it down; always pull the outer strands into the middle, never moving what becomes the center strand.
Now pull the right strand over the center strand. Continue, alternating outer strands, but always pulling into the center. When you get to the end, pinch the strands together.
Flip the challah over so that the loose strands fan away from you. Start braiding again by pulling an outside strand to the middle, but this time start with the right strand. Braid to the end again, and pinch the strands together.
Join the two ends to form a circle. Place the braid on a piece of parchment.
Lower the dough into a 4-quart crock pot. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.
Turn the temperature to high and put on the cover. (Not all crock pots behave the same, so you should keep an eye on the loaf after about 45 minutes to make sure it is not over-browning on the bottom or not browning at all. You may need to adjust the time or temperature according to your machine.)
Bake for 1 hour. To check for doneness, it should feel firm when you gently poke the top of the loaf with your finger.
The bottom crust should be nice and caramel colored, but the top of the loaf will be quite soft and pale. Some folks desire a softer crust, so they’ll love this loaf. You can place the bread under the broiler for 5 minutes or until it is the color you like, with a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Let the loaf cool completely before serving. This loaf, especially when baked in the crockpot, is sensitive to that–if you eat it warm, it may seem underbaked or gummy.
We’ve used Red Star Yeast in our recipes since we started writing our very first book in 2005 and trust that their products will ALWAYS get the job done with the highest quality (and rise) every time. We were super intrigued when they introduced the Platinum Instant Sourdough Yeast. It’s the perfect entry into sourdough baking, if you don’t have the days to create a sour starter, nor the hours and hours to let each loaf rise. This yeast contains real sourdough starter, which is activated along with yeast, to create an instant loaf of real sourdough, without the wait. We are thrilled with the results and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants the sourdough without the wait. Here is our Brioche recipe from Holiday and Celebration Bread Book made with the Platinum Instant Sourdough. You can use this Super Fast Sourdough Brioche for anything you’d make with Brioche, but it has the extra depth of flavor you get from a sourdough starter. The strength of that flavor will increase as the dough rests and we found that the dough behaved best within the first 3 days of storing it in the refrigerator, after that we froze the dough to use later.
In 2014, Jeff and Zoe worked on a Gluten-Free book for Bread in 5 readers, first published in the US(in English, of course), and now in Germany (in German of course), where it was published this Spring by Unimedica. “Glutenfreies Funf-Minuten-Brot” is available all over Germany, on AmazonDE, and even in the US. We decided to celebrate the release with some Brötchen (which is German for “little bread”), an egg-white enriched dough which creates an incredible crust and crumb. We are also excited because this is our first post with instructions for baking with wheat OR gluten-free flour! The egg-white especially lightens up the gluten-free version. Note: these pictures are of the wheat-based brotchen.
Preheat the oven to 450F, with an empty metal broiler tray on any shelf that won’t interfere with the rising brötchen.
Cut off 3-ounce (peach-size) pieces of Egg White-Enriched Dough (see below) and quickly shape into balls, then pinch to form an oval shape. Allow to rest, 2 inches apart, on a baking sheet prepared with oil, butter, parchment paper, or a silicone mat for 20 minutes.
Brush the tops with egg white and cut a single lengthwise slash into the top of each roll, using a serrated knife.
Place the baking sheet in the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, or until richly browned. Serve slightly warm.
Egg-White Enriched Wheat Dough: Put 3 egg whites into the bottom of a measuring cup, then add water to bring the total volume to 3 cups of liquid in the Master Recipe (or on page 53 in New Artisan). All other ingredients and measurements are the same. Refrigerate for up to 5 days before freezing in 1-pound portions. This dough is great for brotchen, but you can use it for other rolls or bread as well. The egg-white variation for the gluten-free dough is at the Gluten-Free Master Recipe.
Need help with your Gluten-Free Dough? We have a video here to show you what it should look like!
You can also bake the Brötchen as a boule, if you want!
Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, everybody loves hot cross buns! are the words to the children’s song, and they hold true even now. These little buns are traditionally served at Easter time: A sweet dough that is spiced, studded with dried (sometimes candied) fruit and decorated with a cross made of icing. I made them after many requests and my kids devoured them within minutes; they were nervous about the raisins, but the cream cheese crosses and scent of cinnamon and nutmeg drew them in.
As I researched these delicious buns I realized that there are just as many ways to make them as there are families who bake them. Some people slash the dough to make the cross, others use a flour and water paste to create the symbol and others use the sweet icing. Tell me how you make your buns, and if you don’t have a family tradition yet, you can start with these!
We had such a good response to our Chocolate Bread that we decided to make some Nutella swirl buns to go along with it. The no-knead chocolate dough is not overly sweet, and it balances the Nutella and sugar coating quite well. We made them in individual molds, but you can also bake them free form in a 9 x 13 pan if you don’t have them.
Butter ten 3 x 2-inch soufflé molds, ramekins, or other straight-sided molds (note: you can use regular muffins tins, but you will need to cut the buns smaller; into more pieces. You can also bake them free form in a 9 x 13 pan like traditional cinnamon rolls). Line the bottom of each mold with parchment paper, and then generously coat with granulated sugar, tapping out any excess. Place the molds on a baking sheet.
Using a rolling pin, the dough out to an 1/8-inch-thick rectangle, and then spread the Nutella over the dough (you can use more than 1/2 cup, but I found that less is more here, both for taste and ease of cutting the dough into slices). If your dough is really soft and hard to work with, you can place it (filled and rolled) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for 20-30 minutes before slicing.
Use a kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 10 equal pieces. Transfer the pieces to the prepared molds and place them cut side up. Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle lower position. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Remove the plastic and bake 18 to 26 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the rolls are set (You can test for doneness by tapping the top, if it feels firm in the center, then it is done).
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the rolls cool for a few minutes. Use a kitchen towel or oven mitts to pick up each soufflé mold, then run a knife carefully around the edges of the pan, and flip the roll onto a wire rack. Carefully put the roll right side up, and repeat with the remaining rolls. Let cool for a few minutes, then toss each roll into sugar and cover.