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Program #673

Allison Furbish

Basic Sweet Bread Dough
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

Yield: 2 loaves

This soft and pliable dough is suitable for all sorts of shapes, from braids to cinnamon rolls to monkey bread. Soft dough is the secret to soft, tender bread.

3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Red Star active dry yeast
1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla or other flavoring, or 2 teaspoons citrus zest
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups (19 to 23 1/4 ounces) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (or substitute up to 2 cups All-Natural King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 2 teaspoons sugar. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly and active, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing until the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, knead the dough about 5 minutes, until soft and pliable but not sticky. Let the dough rest while you clean and grease the bowl. Finish kneading the dough until it's smooth, supple, and springy.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat all surfaces, cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on a lightly floured surface for 15 minutes. Form the dough into desired shapes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes, to an internal temperature of 190F. Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool on a rack.

Filled Mock Braid

Working with half the Basic Sweet Dough at a time, roll the dough into a 10" x 15" rectangle. Press two light lines on each rectangle, lengthwise, to divide dough into three equal sections. Choose a filling that sounds good to you, like almost paste or fruit preserves (just don't pick anything too runny, or you'll have a mess on your hands by the time the braid comes out of the oven). Spread filling down the center section, leaving 1" of clear space at either end and along the inside edges. Cut 1"-wide strips from the edge of filling to outer edge of the dough. Fold the ends up over the filling. Bring the dough strips across the filling on a diagonal, alternating from side to side. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 35 to 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F. Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until the loaves are a rich, golden brown. Cool the loaves on racks. If desired, drizzle the loaves with sugar icing and top with sliced almonds.

Sugar Icing
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream, or 2 tablespoons milk or water
A few drops flavored extract, or lemon or orange oil (optional)

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Roll half the Basic Sweet Dough into a 10" x 15"rectangle. Brush the surface of the dough with egg wash. Cover with half the filling mixture:

Filling Mixture

1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Starting with one of the short ends, roll the dough into a log, pinching the seams and ends to seal them tightly. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Place each loaf in a well-greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel and let the loaves rise for about an hour, or until they've crowned about 1" over the rim of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350F. Before baking, brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash. Bake about 45 minutes, tenting with foil the last 10 minutes if the bread is browning too quickly. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on a rack. Yield: 2 loaves.

Salt in Antiquity

While salt is cheap today, it used to be worth its weight in gold. Historians believe that Roman soldiers were once paid with salt. In fact, the word 'salary' comes from the Latin word 'salarium,' or payment in salt. During the late Roman Empire, salt was carried across 400 miles of the Sahara desert by caravans of as many as 40,000 camels. It was that important to humanity!