Hot Cross Buns Braided Loaf
- 1 cup milk (room temperature)
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 7 tablespoons Imperial Sugar Extra Fine Granulated Sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 4 3/4 cups bread flour*
- 5 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 stick unsalted butter, very soft
- 4 cups dried chopped fruit such as dark or golden raisins, dried apricots, dried cranberries, candied orange peel (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups Imperial Sugar Confectioners Powdered Sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice or water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
*Spoon & Sweep method: Use a spoon to fill measuring cup with flour until required amount is obtained. Scooping measuring cup directly into flour bag will firmly pack flour resulting in too much flour required for recipe.
- Pour milk in a bowl followed by eggs, vanilla, sugar, honey, and salt. Place flour on top.
- Combine yeast with lukewarm water and add paste to bowl.
- Using dough hook, mix dough until elastic and smooth, about 5-7 minutes on medium speed. During the mixing process keep an eye on the temperature making sure it does not exceed 78-80°F at this point.
- Gradually add pieces of very soft butter to dough allowing it to be fully incorporated before adding next amount. The dough should not go over 82°F. If needed, rest dough.
- Add dried fruits and mix until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic food wrap and set in a warm place and allow dough to rise until doubled in volume, about 60 minutes.
- Remove dough from bowl. This will make dough collapse and is normal and is required to develop a dough that has strength.
- Cut dough into 2 equal pieces, then cut each piece in 3 equal pieces to obtain a total of 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and cover with plastic food wrap.
- Shape each of your round pieces into a tube shape. The dough will resist being shaped very long at the first try, therefore shape it first about 8-inches long, let it rest and continue with the other pieces.
- Go back to the first shaped piece and make it longer, about 12-inches and let it rest; continue with the other pieces.
- Shape each piece 18-inches long. Place 3 tubes next to each other and pinch them together on top. Braid into a loaf by folding right tube over center one, then left tube over center one, right over center, left over center and continue until the end.
- Place on a parchment or buttered cookie sheet. Braid other loaf and place on a cookie sheet. Cover both with plastic food wrap and let rise until 60% larger (not doubled in size). In about 20-30 minutes preheat oven to 350°F.
- Carefully brush loaves with beaten egg and place in the oven.
- Bake for 40 minutes; if loaves are getting too dark place a buttered sheet of aluminum foil on bread during baking.
- When loaves are nearly cool, make the decoration by mixing powdered sugar with juice or water and vanilla to a smooth glaze. Spread over loaves and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve warm.
We highly recommend the use of a thermometer to ensure a moist and tender loaf. When dough mixes it warms up due to friction. If the temperature goes above 82°F it will result in bread that dries out rapidly and is crumbly. When working with yeast, setting the A/C around 75°F or slightly higher is always recommended.