We got this recipe from a friend several years ago, but, for one reason or another, never made it. Well, really, the one reason is that we didn’t have any cardamom. It turns out that it’s a bit difficult to make something when you’re missing the one ingredient mentioned in the name. So, this year, we headed off to one of our favorite stores to pick up some cardamom.
Now, we’re sure that many people don’t have favorite stores where they pick up spices, but, if you happen to have a Penzey’s near you, stop in and check it out. A good selection of spices at great prices. Or you can shop online, too. We only mention it because this is where we buy most of our spices, and we think you might like it, too.
Anyway, cardamom in hand, lets’ get scratchin’. Oh, we cut back the original recipe to one loaf of bread, and we list ingredients by weight in addition to volume.
Cardamom comes in little pods that are easy to peel open with your fingernails, revealing the seeds inside. It’ll only take you a few minutes to get enough seeds, then you can grind them in a spice grinder (we use a small coffee grinder) or just crush them with the back of a spoon. Butter, as always for baking, is unsalted. No sense in having someone at the dairy helping you salt your food. And the eggs, ideally, are from free-range hens. Now that there are lots of people raising chickens in their backyards, look around and see if you can find someone nearby selling eggs. You’ll have a better egg, you’ll support your neighbor, and the hens will have a better life. Win. Win. Win.
Procedure in detail:
Mix liquids. Well, more than liquids, really. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, sugar, yeast, butter, egg, cardamom, and salt. The butter will still be in chunks and we need to melt it. The easiest way is to place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, improvising a double boiler. Warm the liquids until the butter starts to melt, but DO NOT let the liquid get hot. If you have a thermometer, use it to keep the temperature below 105°F or you’ll kill the yeast. If not, consider warming everything but the yeast, then letting it cool until it feels lukewarm, and then add the yeast.
Add flour. Place the bowl of liquids on the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and add about 3 cups (about 420 g) of flour. Start kneading and add more flour as necessary, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl.
Knead. Let the machine, set on low, knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough will be smooth and supple.
First rise. Remove the dough from the bowl, and, using your hand, shape it into a smooth ball. Pour about a tablespoon of light vegetable oil into the bowl and use the dough to smear it around, coating both the sides of the bowl and the dough. Place the dough into the bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Line baking sheet. Line a baking sheet with parchment, a silicone baking mat, or lightly grease the pan.
Shape. Turn out the dough and cut it into three equal pieces. Shape each into a long snake or rope, about 15 inches long and an 1 to 2 inches in diameter; set the ropes onto the prepared baking sheet. Press the ends of the rope together at one end, then braid the three ropes together, forming a braided loaf.
Second rise. Cover the loaf with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake. Uncover the loaf and bake until it’s golden-brown on the top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35 to 45 minutes.
Top. While hot, smear with butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Cool. Like all breads, let cool to nearly room temperature before slicing. We know this is the hardest part, but be as patient as possible.
We loved the look of this bread. We’ve never made a braided bread before, partly because we assumed it would be difficult, with the dough sticking all over the place. We were wrong. It’s really easy and the dough doesn’t stick. A minute of work for a really nice-looking loaf of bread is worth it, in our book. The taste and texture of this bread is really good, too. Cardamom is an interesting taste, and it’s hard to describe, but we can imagine that you’ll either like the flavor or not; we doubt that there’s much middle ground. We liked it, so we really liked the bread, especially with a bit of Cheddar cheese on top of the slices. Mmm. It made a great snacky dinner. Five.