Swedish Cardamom Bread

Swedish Cardamom Braid

Swedish Cardamom Braid

This very popular and delightful Scandinavian sweet bread is often served at Christmas time and is often braided, but can be baked in the typical loaf form as well.

It is one of the most popular items that we sell at our annual Chocolate Fest, which is sponsored by the women’s fellowship of our church.  The Chocolate Fest is coming up on February 7, and many of the women are baking up chocolate treats, but not everything is chocolate.  Case in point with this bread.

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Cardamom, a spice typically used in Scandinavian breads and baked goods, lightly seasons this soft pillowy bread.  I made up a batch last week, and we have been feasting on it ever since.  Mr. D. loves it, and has been asking me when I would make some, so I surprised him with two loaves of it.  I like to braid the loaves, making them look special with an egg wash and sprinkle of decorating sugar.

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Slices of this bread can be lightly heated in the microwave and spread with butter for breakfast.  It’s great with a cup of coffee!!

Makes a lovely light breakfast with fruit and coffee.

Makes a lovely light breakfast with fruit and coffee.

I make the dough in my bread machine on the “dough” cycle, then remove it, form the braids, and let it raise a second time before baking.  The ingredients in the recipe can be mixed in an electric mixer as well and left to rise in a warm place prior to making the braids.  So if you want to make this bread, but don’t have a bread machine, no problem.. you can use your mixer, and proceed as you would when making any regular bread recipe.

Braid it before baking.

Braid it before baking.

SWEDISH CARDAMOM BRAID

Yield:  2 braids,  or 1 large loaf

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature, or slightly warmed in the microwaveIMG_9084
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla, or almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. freshly ground cardamom ( I use a full teaspoon.)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. yeast

Egg wash:  1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp. milk or cream

Decorating sugar, optional

Directions:

1.  In the pan of a bread machine, layer in the ingredients, according to manufacturer’s suggestion.  Set for “dough” cycle, and start the machine.  Once all the ingredients are combined, watch carefully as the consistency can be somewhat “sticky”.  You may need to add more flour in small amounts until a smooth, non-sticky ball of dough is achieved.

2.  At completion of dough cycle, remove dough from the machine, and divide in half.  Keeping one half covered, divide the other half into 3 equal balls.  Roll each ball into a long rope.  Lay the three ropes next to each other, pinch together at one end, and braid them together. Pinch bottom ends together  (Just like making a hair braid!)  Repeat with the other half of dough.

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3.  Place each braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.  Cover, and let rise for about 1  1/2 hours.  Brush braids with egg wash, sprinkle with decorating sugar (if using), and bake in a preheated 350*F. oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.

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SOURCE:        The Big Book of Bread Machine Recipes,   Donna Rathmell German

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Pear Hazelnut Bread

Pear-Hazelnut Bread

Pear-Hazelnut Bread

Quick breads often meet my need for something sweet, without a guilt trip about how many calories I’m ingesting.  Of course not all of them meet that description, but this one is a nice compromise between a little sweetness and something you feel good about eating for breakfast.  It bakes up nice and hearty, with shredded pears and chopped hazelnuts folded into a cardamom-scented batter.

This bread would be a welcome addition to a holiday brunch or just nice to have with your morning’s coffee, on an average day.  Although, in my opinion, no day is average when it starts with a home-baked bread or muffin.

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Fresh, firm pears are needed for this recipe, so when they are grated you will not have a pile of mush.  I like Bosc pears but firm Bartletts work well also.  Wait to prepare them until you’re ready to put the bread together or the shredded fruit will turn brown.

While the original recipe for this bread called for 1  1/2 cups white all-purpose flour, I use a mixture of whole grains to make a total of  1 1/2 cups.  Examples are oats, spelt flour, whole wheat flour, and barley flakes.  The proportions should be about 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup something else like oats or barley flakes.  This will give you a bread that is tender with good texture.   Toasting the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5 minutes improves their nutty flavor, but watch them carefully so they don’t get too browned.

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PEAR-HAZELNUT BREAD

Yield:   1  9″x5″ loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded, peeled, ripe pears that are still firm (about 2 )
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (see recommended types above)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  •  1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

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Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  and line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.  Coat well with cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Whisk together the vegetable oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla together well.  Stir in the shredded pears.

3.  Whisk together all the dry ingredients,  adding in the chopped nuts also.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients.

4.  Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing just to moisten thoroughly.

Mixing wet ingredients into dry.

Mixing wet ingredients into dry.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Test carefully as the top of this loaf may brown and look done while the center is still moist because of the pears.

5.  Let cool in the pan for about an hour, then remove from pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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SOURCE:   Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Cardamom Banana Bread with Pistachios

Cardamom Banana Bread with pistachios.

Cardamom Banana Bread with pistachios.

I like to use a variety of herbs and spices in my cooking.  I love the way they enhance or give subtle flavor to a dish.  They can turn the ordinary or mundane into something exotic and interesting at very little expense.  So following on the heels of yesterday’s post on ginger, today I want to focus on cardamom.

Cardamom is a pod consisting of a pale outer shell which has tiny seeds inside it.  It is the seeds that have an intense flavor, but they need to be crushed or ground before use. Ground cardamom is used mostly in baking where its flavor is readily recognized in the baked goods of Scandinavian countries, especially breads, stollen, cookies and buns.

Two varieties of cardamom:  whole pods and ground.

Two varieties of cardamom: whole pods and ground.

Cardamom is available in white, black and green forms. It is the white form that we are most familiar with and that which is commonly used in baked goods.  In India, however, the black and green forms are important ingredients in meat and vegetable dishes.  Black cardamom has a unique smokey flavor, and it is used mainly in curries.

If you have never used cardamom, this recipe will provide an introduction, without being overwhelming.  The bread will taste like the banana bread you know, but the cardamom will be a stand-in for vanilla.  Finely chopped pistachio nuts will provide the crunch.  This bread is not a very sweet bread so it is pleasant with coffee or tea for breakfast.  Keep this recipe in mind when you are faced with 2 or 3 really ripe (read, black ) bananas—the best kind for baking!  I love this recipe because you can mix it all by hand….no need to get out the mixer.   It’s so quick to mix up and pop in the oven while dinner is cooking,  and be cooled and ready for a snack before bedtime.  OOPS,  I’m giving away my secrets!

CARDAMOM BANANA BREAD WITH PISTACHIOS

YIELD:    1  9″ x 5  loaf

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

    Mix together the dry ingredients.

    Mix together the dry ingredients.

  • 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups sugar  (I used 1 cup, but if you like a sweeter bread use the 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom    If you like cardamom, this amount can be increased up to 1 teaspoon.
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

1.  Preheat oven to 350*   Lightly grease or spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

2.  In a large bowl combine the first six ingredients.  ( flour through salt )

3.  In another bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, sour cream and banana.

Everything in two bowls; mix by hand.

Everything in two bowls; mix by hand.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix partially.  Add in the pistachios and finish mixing, without over mixing.  This keeps the bread light instead of heavy and dense.

5.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350* for an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Banana bread, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

Banana bread, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

SOURCE:   adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light.