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Tasty and festive breads for the holidays 

Courtesy of Timothy Vollmer, Wikimedia Commons.

Treat your family to some homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.


This time of year, so many family members (even the guys) would start in baking holiday breads. We had apricot and prune orchards, as well as figs, oranges, lemons and walnuts (and a few almonds), so all of those were used in the baking.

As a kid, I felt the excitement and anticipation in the air, and I enjoyed helping out, especially kneading yeast doughs. I kept pinching small pieces off and popping them into my mouth. I thought I was getting away with something, but I am pretty sure everyone knew what I was doing.

If you would like to fill your home with the aroma and warmth of baking bread, here are some recipes for your consideration. We always love to have cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

Christmas bread

1 package (1/4-oz.) active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees, or follow directions on yeast package)

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour, divided

1 cup chopped mixed candied fruit

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Additional candied fruit, optional

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the evaporated milk, sugar, shortening, salt, eggs and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in mixed candied fruit and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (do not knead).

2. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 3 to 4 minutes. Pat evenly into a greased 10-inch tube pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.

5. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to reach desired consistency; drizzle over bread. Garnish with additional candied fruit if desired.

Cranberry orange bread with Grand Marnier glaze

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup orange juice

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp. finely grated orange zest

2 tsp. vanilla

4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

6 to 8 tbsp. Grand Marnier (or orange juice, if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 330 (yes, 330). Spray two 5-by-8-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Or, if making mini loaves, spray six 2-cup capacity pans.

2. With an electric hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the orange juice, sour cream, orange zest and vanilla; mix until well blended.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture and cranberries to the wet ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed; do not overmix.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 70 to 75 minutes for the larger pans, and 55 to 60 minutes for mini loaves. Test by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer into center to see if it comes out clean.

5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 6 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or orange juice). The glaze should have the consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup. If it is too thick, thin with an additional tablespoon or two of the liqueur.

6. Allow the loaves to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a large baking sheet. With a thin skewer, poke deep holes in the tops of the loaves. Drizzle with the glaze so it coats the top, runs down the sides and seeps into the holes.

7. Allow the loaves to cool completely, then slice and serve, or wrap and freeze.

Eggnog bread

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup eggnog

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon rum extract

For the eggnog glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons eggnog

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon rum extract

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the eggnog, oil, eggs, vanilla and rum extract.

4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Pound on the counter so the loaf cake is evenly set in the pan.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 65 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

6. While the bread is cooling, make the eggnog glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, eggnog, vanilla, rum extract and nutmeg. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled loaf cake. Cut into slices and serve.

Cinnamon rolls

For dough:

1 cup warm milk (about 115 degrees)

2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

2 large eggs

1/3 cup salted butter, softened or gently melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 1/2 cups flour, divided

For filling:

1/2 cup salted butter, almost melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed (for pouring over the risen rolls before baking)

For icing:

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup salted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tablespoon maple extract or vanilla

1. Pour the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top.Add the eggs, butter and sugar. Mix until combined.

2. Add in salt and 4 cups flour. (Save the remaining 1/2 cup and use only if needed.) Mix in mixer, using the beater blade, just until the ingredients are barely combined. Allow mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the flour has time to soak up the liquids.

3. Scrape the dough off the beater blade and remove it. Attach the dough hook.

4. Beat the dough on medium speed, adding in up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed to form a dough. Knead for 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth. (The dough should be tacky and sticking to the sides of the bowl.) Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.

5. Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in the greased large bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel or waxed paper.

6. Set the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until double. You can turn on the oven to the lowest setting for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn off the oven and place the dough to rise in there. It normally takes about 30 minutes for the dough to rise. Do not allow the dough to rise too much or the cinnamon rolls will be too airy. Don’t forget to turn that oven off after it warms up.

7. While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon filling. In a medium bowl, combine the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing until well combined. Set aside.

8. Sprinkle a pastry mat or board generously with flour. Turn out the dough onto the pastry mat and sprinkle the top of the dough with additional flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to about a 24-by-15-inch rectangle, more or less.

9. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the cinnamon filling over the whole dough rectangle. Starting on the long end, roll the dough up tightly jelly-roll style. Cut into 12 slices and place in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover pan and allow rolls to rise for 20 minutes or until nearly double. Preheat oven to 375.

10. Warm the heavy cream until the chill is off. Don’t make it hot…you just don’t want it cold. It should be warm to the touch. Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in and around them.

11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center rolls are cooked through. (The time will vary based on how big the rolls are, what type of pan and how close the rolls are packed. They could take up to 25 to 27 minutes. Check the rolls at 20 minutes. If they are getting too browned, cover loosely with foil for the remaining baking time.)

12. While the rolls are cooling, prepare the cream cheese icing. In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer. Blend well, then add your favorite extract and confectioners’ sugar. Beat until combined. Spread the icing over the cooled rolls. Store in an airtight container (if you have any left).

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