Christmas Breads

In the Christmas of '93, I was living in Philadelphia. I returned to Dallas to visit family, and while there I baked several breads for the large gathering. These have become my Signature Breads, always asked for at holidays. Luckly, I took notes on how I did it.

The secrets to making great (not just "good") bread are documented on their own page, so I won't repeat it here.

Pecan Braid

Start with the basic sweet dough. To make the filling, start with 1 stick of butter, softened and melted but not runny. To this add 3/4 to 1 cup of brown sugar, enough to make a thick liquid. Season with 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Add chopped pecans, 1/2 to 1 cup, to make a paste.

Roll the dough into a large, long rectangle. Slice the long way into 3 strips. For each strip, place filling down center of strip, fold 1/3 of dough over filling, then roll over the final third to form a filled tube. Braid the three strips together. Brush with egg wash, bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cinnamon (snail) Buns

Start with the basic sweet dough. The filling is 1/2 cup of light brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Roll the dough into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle, spread with softened butter using a spatula, and then spread evenly with the cinnamon filling. Roll up starting from the short edge. Cut into 12 1-inch slices. Arrange on a baking sheet so they barely touch. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let cool, and drizzle with vanilla/sugar glaze.

Garlic Rolls

Start with basic white bread with a tbl olive oil added. Prepare garlic butter with half a stick of softened butter and 1 clove minced garlic.

Spread the garlic butter onto the bottom 2/3 of the dough (top/bottom is the longer side). Fold the unbuttered third down, then fold the exposed buttered third over the stack. Wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll and fold again, using no butter. Refrigerate for an hour.

Cut dough in half, roll each half into a 12 inch square. Cut into 6 smaller rectangles (cut into 3 rows and 2 columns), then cut each rectangle diagonally to form 12 triangles. Place 1 tsp of filling near the base of each triangle, and roll up. Let rise again, then brush with egg wash and bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Garlic Roll Filling

1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 2 tbl freshly grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, 1/2 tsp oregano , an egg yolk, pinch of freshly greated pepper (2 twists of the mill), a pinch of nutmeg, and 1 tsp water. Mix well.

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