This bread is a traditional Danish Christmas braided bread. It’s easier than it sounds and delicious with hot chocolate on Christmas morning…and afternoon…and evening…and after the kids go to bed.
K2 spends the entire time I make it trying to steal bits of dough and then begging me to let her eat a loaf [in its entirety, by herself] as soon as it comes out of the oven.
As. Soon. As.
This year, I put my refusals to music. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
No! You can't. eat. some! I told you no, told you no. No you really can't. [Even if you whine.] You cannot. have. any bread, any bread, No you really can't. [Tears won't work on me.]Et cetera.
OK. It was probably more entertaining in person.
I got this recipe years ago from a good friend who's mom is from Denmark, and her Yule Bread is an art. They kindly gave me the recipe. Thank you! My family will be eternally grateful.
- 1 1/2 cups butter
- 4 cups milk
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 3 Tbsp yeast
- 2 1/2 tsp cardamom [the fresher, the better]
- 2 tsp salt
- 10-12 Cups flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp water
Melt butter. Add milk. Warm to body temperature. The butter will be good and hot by the time it has melted and when you add the milk to it, the butter will raise the temp of the milk to just exactly what you need.
While the butter is melting, in a very large bowl mix sugar, salt and cardamom.
Soften yeast with a large spoon full of the sugar mixture and some of the warm milk.
Add yeast and milk/butter to the rest of the sugar mix in the very large bowl. Stir well.
Add flour a cup at a time. Start with a whisk so that the flour gets incorporated quickly. As the dough gets thicker, use a spoon instead and incorporate the flour with a rolling motion. When it's too hard to roll with a spoon, use your hands to roll it. Be gentle with the dough. Handle it as little as possible so that it will stay tender.
Cover it with a damp cloth and let it rise 1 hour.
Divide dough into 8 balls. Start by dividing it in half, then each of those two in half, then each of those four in half. You'll get lovely balls of about the same size.
Divide each of those into 3 smaller balls. Let rest. (Dividing takes some time, so by the time you’re done dividing everything, the first set has rested long enough.) Cover as many as you can with the damp cloth you used to cover the dough during the first rise.
Make a 15″ rope from each of the 3 small balls. Braid and tuck the ends under. Put them on a greased cookie sheet. It'll take 2 sheets.
Let rise 30 minutes. Start the timer when you've filled your first sheet.
Optional glaze: Beat egg with 1 tsp water and brush on loaves. Confession: I never put the glaze on. I'm way too lazy.
Bake until golden blonde on greased sheet at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
If you didn't use the glaze, then brush melted butter all over the tops of the loaves as soon as they come out of the over. [Translation: Take the paper off one end of a stick of butter and rub it on the hot bread. The butter melts immediately and you don't have to wash a brush.]
Cool loaves on parchment paper.
- You do not have to do 8 loaves. This is America. There are no Yule Bread Police. You can do 4 or 6 or 12. For smaller loaves to gift, divide the dough into 12 balls. These loaves are a great little size that fits perfectly into a gift bag for giving away.
- If your cardamom is old, then it's OK to add more - add an extra 1/2 tsp to start with. The cardamom is the whole reason to make this bread, so don't be stingy with it.
- One last thing - this dough is sweet and delicious and if you eat too much it will give you painful gas because the yeast will love your inner body temp. Trust me. Don't. Eat. The Dough. Not even a bit, because then you won't be able to stop.