You guys! I am SO EXCITED about today’s recipe. I can’t even handle how gorgeous this bread is. When I made it last week I promptly sent a photo of it to my mom with a subject line that read “Look! I made something pretty!!”. I was very proud of myself. Mostly because I don’t consider myself a maker of pretty things.
I’ve previously confessed to my lack of cake decorating skills. And I’m really not all about fancy schmancy detail work on cookies either. I prefer things to be more rustic (= food blogger code for messy). So if I can make this absolutely stunning Braided Cardamom and Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread, then YOU can totally do it. Trust.
I just want to stare at this masterpiece all day long.
Wait. That’s a lie. Sorry. I don’t want to stare at this bread all day long. I want to eat it! Because this baby isn’t just all about looks. That would be terribly shallow. This bread is winning awards in the taste department as well. It’s full of cozy, wintery flavors like cardamom, orange and hazelnut. And of course chocolate. Oh and let’s not forget about this glaze that is spoon-licking good!
This Braided Cardamom and Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread is certainly special enough for Christmas morning. Although Santa might get mad at you for stealing his thunder…
Recipe adapted from my Pecan Sticky Buns
Braided Cardamom and Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread
- For the Dough
- 3-3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- For the Filling
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread
- Finely grated zest from 1 orange
- For the Glaze
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- About 2 tablespoons orange juice
- Make the dough. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine 2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, ground cardamom and yeast. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Warm the milk to 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the warmed milk, butter and beaten egg to the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once the mixture is well combined, start slowly adding in more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is soft, easy to handle and easily leaves the side of the bowl. I used an additional 1 cup of flour here. You shouldn’t need more than 1 1/2 cups of flour.
- Mix the dough on low-medium speed for about 5 minutes, pulling the dough down off the hook as needed. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured countertop for about 5 minutes.
- Gather up the dough with your hands, shape it into a ball and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it with the oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a thin kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, gently punch down the dough to deflate it. Remove it from the bowl and transfer it to a floured countertop. Shape it with your hands into a rectangle. Then using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 24 X 12-inch rectangle. This will take a little bit of time and effort because the dough is fairly elastic at first and it will keep bouncing back. But keep working at it!
- Make the filling. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and the cardamom. Set aside. Add the butter and the chocolate-hazelnut spread to separate bowl and microwave about 20 seconds, or just until the two are soft enough to be well combined. Spread the softened butter/chocolate-hazelnut mixture evenly over the surface of the dough (the layer will be thin), leaving about a 1/2-inch boarder around the edges. Sprinkle the sugar/cardamom mixture evenly over the dough. Top with the orange zest (I like to just zest the orange straight over the dough). Beginning at one of the long edges, tightly roll up the dough into a log. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal it as best you can.
- Spray a baking sheet and the ring of a 9- to 10-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the roll lengthwise, creating two equal sized long halves, but leaving one end still attached by about 3/4-inch at the very end. Slightly rotate the halves outwards so the layers are facing upwards. Starting from the end that is still attached, cross the two halves over each other. Continue doing this until you end up with a single twisted/braided rope. Pinch together the end of the rope.
- Gently slide your rope onto to your greased baking sheet. Starting with one end, spiral the rope into a closed circle. The circle doesn’t have to be tight (the bread will rise and puff up as it bakes, filling in any small spaces) but it shouldn’t have a large hole in the center (think a snail shell, not a wreath). Neatly tuck the very end of the rope under the circle.
- Place the ring of your spring form pan over/around the circle. Cover with a thin kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Position an oven rack in the middle position.
- Remove the towel from the dough (leave the spring form pan in place) and transfer the baking sheet to your pre-heated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Then gently slide the bread off the baking pan directly onto the wire rack to continue cooling.
- Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. If you want a thicker glaze, use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of orange juice. For a thinner glaze, use the full 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.
- Slice and serve. This bread is best when it’s still slightly warm. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2-3 days.
1. You want the butter to be really soft before mixing it into the dough. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, your “room temperature” butter could be too firm. If so, just microwave it for a few seconds to further soften.
2. If you prefer, you can bake the bread the night before. Then re-warm it in the oven for a few minutes, make and add the glaze the next day.