One of my favorite parts of Christmas is baking, especially wonderful Christmas breads fragrant with spices and studded with fruit. Sometimes my holiday baking efforts perform beautifully, but other times, as with my yule log last year, the results are hilarious, ridiculous, and still, somehow, delicious.
That’s the lovely thing about Christmas bread: even when it flops, the combination of dough, fruit, and spice still results in something scrumptious.
There are many Christmas bread names to describe fragrant and delicious Christmas bread. Chai Monkey Bread is a fun bread to make during the holidays, with sweet dough dipped in butter and spices then baked to a sugary, golden perfection.
Blueberry Tea Bread is wonderful for a snowy Saturday morning. Serve it in thick slices with lashings of softened butter to make even the grayest of winter days downright festive.
Earl Grey Banana Bread with tea-soaked raisins is another gorgeous bread that will smell heavenly while baking, and make the whole house feel celebratory.
If you want a special bread that isn’t too sweet, try a buttery brioche laced with cinnamon and studded with chunks of dark chocolate, or fully embrace your savory side with a beautiful crusty loaf of Olive Rosemary Bread.
Out of all the Christmas bread names I could choose from, though, this year I chose beautiful Russian Krendl. Krendl is a yeasty sweet bread filled with a lusciously smooth fruit spread made by simmering dried fruits with butter, honey, and white wine. Usually shaped like a pretzel before baking, Krendl is also made in a spiral shape.
Unless I’m baking it, of course, then all sorts of shenanigans ensue.
This year’s Christmas bread baking fiasco was my own fault since I decided to bake on a stormy day. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now; storms inevitably turn my normally picture-perfect baking into crazy shapes that poof and burst and slump until they don’t resemble anything like what they’re supposed to. In my defense, I didn’t know it was going to storm until after I’d started the dough, and by then it was too late. So, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
Alas, the best did not arrive.
What started out as a beautiful pretzel-shaped loaf of bread morphed into a slab. An absolutely delicious slab that filled the whole house with delectable smells, yes, but a slab nonetheless. My husband was good enough not to laugh too hard, especially when he bit into his first slice and promptly insisted on two more slices. Followed by two more.
No doubt this recipe will result in a beautifully browned pretzel-shaped loaf if baked on a sunny day, but even if you are as unlucky as me in the weather department, you can rest assured that your baking efforts will not be in vain.
Krendl is a truly wonderful Christmas bread, with a light, buttery crumb layered with a melt-in-your-mouth fruit filling that is rich with wine and fragrant with ground cinnamon. Pair it with a spicy mug of gingerbread chai for the perfect holiday treat.
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fruity wine
- 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (pears, apricots, raisins, apples, prunes, dates, etc.)
Place all ingredients in heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until fruit is soft and mixture is thick like jam.
Remove from heat and let cool while you make the dough.
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- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 3/4 cup milk, warmed
- 4 tablespoons softened salted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3-3/12 cups white flour
In large bowl, mix together warm milk and sugar, then stir in yeast to dissolve. Add butter, vanilla, salt, egg yolks, and half the flour. Mix well until smooth.
Add remaining flour and knead until soft dough is formed.
Turn dough onto clean, floured surface and knead about 5 minutes.
Place in oiled bowl, cover with dish towel, and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled.
- - -
- 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- Fruit mixture
- Bread dough
Cover baking sheet with parchment paper, then place dough on sheet and roll out to the edges.
In small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.
Brush bread dough with melted butter, then sprinkle evenly with cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Spread evenly with fruit mixture, leaving 1 inch space at the edges.
Carefully roll up bread dough into a jelly roll, sealing edges, then shape into a pretzel or spiral.
Cover with dish towel and let rise 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375F. Bake bread about 45 minutes, or until golden on top.
Serve warm as is, or drizzled with a glaze flavored with lemon juice or almond extract.