Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holiday Baking--Three Recipes

In the spirit of the New Year I am fulfilling a facebook promise to share the Chocolate Bread recipe, as well as two others I've mentioned recently.

1. Chocolate Bread
This is Mary Wright's Coffee Hour Bread recipe which I've adapted. Mary taught me the basics of baking with yeast back in 1986. Recipe makes 2 large loaves or 4 skinny ones. I usually do half the batch as chocolate bread and half with Mary's filling. 

chocolate bread in the foreground
5-5 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages yeast [1 pkg = a shy tbsp]
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 sticks margarine
2 eggs
filling (see additional recipes)

In a large bowl mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and the dry yeast.  In a microwavable bowl, combine milk, water, and margarine. Heat in microwave until liquids are very warm (but not so hot as to kill the yeast). Gradually add warm mixture to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour. Beat 2 minutes on high. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Kneading optional. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. [This is a good time to make your filling(s)]. Turn out dough onto floured board and divide in half. Roll each half into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle (or do smaller quarters). Spread with filling and roll from long side. Place on greased cookie sheet and slit top diagonally every inch. Let stand 10 minutes then bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Mary's Cinnamon-Walnut Filling
This is the traditional coffee-hour bread filling. This recipe is enough filling for a whole batch (2 large loaves).

2 cups chopped walnuts
2/3 cup sugar
2-3 tsp cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 tsp water

Chop nuts, add sugar and cinnamon (and raisins, if desired) and mix. Combine egg whites and water and mix in with rest to create a moist but not wet filling.

Chocolate Filling (my concoction)
A crowd favorite with all ages. Christmas for me must include Chocolate Bread and fresh pears.This recipe is enough filling for a whole batch (2 large loaves).

1 bag chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate)
heavy cream (I don't measure...maybe a 1/2 - 3/4 cup?)
a splash of rum or Kirsch or Grand Marnier or....whatever

Put in microwaveable bowl and heat carefully, stirring often, so that chocolate melts but does not burn. Remember that chocolate will hold its shape until you take it out and stir it (don't rely on seeing it melt). Ideally you will have a sort of ganache that will spread easily.  Experimentation required; an extra bag of chocolate on hand is highly recommended (because if you burn it there is nothing to do except start over). Extra filling is delicious on ice cream.

2. Christmas Morning Casserole
I found this recipe on-line at, submitted by Maryellen Hays and it has become a holiday tradition.  It is really easy to throw together the evening before and just pop in the oven in the morning. 

7  slices white bread, cubed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 eggs
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

In a greased 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish [I use a stoneware Pampered Chef covered baker) combine bread cubes and cheese.  In a large bowl whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper; pour over bread and cheese. Top with bacon. Cover and refrigerate over night.
Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking [I rarely do this]. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Casserole tends to puff up like a souffle while baking but usually collapses shortly thereafter.

3. Cherry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze
I found this as Cranberry-Orange Bread...on but I have a "thing" for dried cherries so I changed it. 

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pans
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed if possible)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a 5 oz package of dried cherries

2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons orange juice (fresh squeezed if possible)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
a little bit of orange zest

Preheat oven to 330 degrees [that's the oddest temp I've ever heard and we always turn our oven down, so I do 300]. Butter two 6-cup capacity loaf pans OR six 2-cup capacity mini loaf pans.
With an electric or standing mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add orange juice, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla; mix until blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and cherries to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed. Do not overmix.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 60 minutes for large loaves, 45 for mini loaves.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients which should be the consistency of corn syrup.  If it is too thick, thin it with additional liqueur.
Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.  With thin skewer or toothpick, poke deep holes in tops of loaves.  Drizzle glaze so it coats the top, runs down the sides, and seeps into the holes.
Let cool completely then slice and serve or wrap and freeze.  Makes great holiday gifts.

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