Bread that is not a king cake

A few weeks back my husband Ted, who is in charge of the bread baking in our home, made a delicious braided bread that was flecked with golden raisins and dried sour cherries, with sesame seeds and finishing sugar too. It was a slightly odd addition to the dinner menu however the taste was excellent and, honestly, just look at it.
[bread that is not a king cake]

Bread that is not a king cake
Servings: 1 large loaf of bread
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes to 3 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 625g (about 4 1/2 cups) flour – I used 1/3 bread flour, 1/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 high-gluten flour. If you want to keep it a bit simpler, just use bread flour, but I would not recommend using all-purpose as it doesn’t have enough gluten to get the proper rise.
  • 1/2 Tbsp. instant (aka Rapid Rise) yeast (you *could* use active dry yeast and follow the instructions instead, but this is easier)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt 2 tsp diastatic malt powder (I guess this is optional… it has enzymes that aid the rise and makes it taste a bit sweeter. I’m sure it could be left out.)
  • 2 egg yolks + warm water (90-110F) to get to a total of 1 3/4 cups liquid
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into small bits and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • (These are optional, you could sub in whatever flavors you have on hand or just soak the fruit in water.): 1/8 tsp. lemon oil, 1/4 tsp. rose water, 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar + water to form a thin glaze (thinner than you would use for a cake.)
  • Green, yellow and purple sugars

Directions:

  1. Start by soaking the raisins and cherries in the water, lemon oil, rose water, and almond extract. Really, you can flavor these with whatever oils/extracts you have that sound good. Microwave this to warm it up but not boil it and let it soak for 30 minutes. Drain and cool them.
  2. Toast the sesame seeds gently in a dry skillet, watching and stirring very frequently until uniformly golden, and let them cool.
  3. Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, malt powder. No need to proof the yeast if you are using instant/rapid rise. Plunge the warm water/egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a tough wooden spoon until the flour is all moistened. Let this sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the butter bits and knead the dough either in a standing mixer, or folding and stretching by hand, until it is thoroughly mixed with no visible butter bits, and until it stretches without tearing easily. Try not to add much more flour during kneading. This should take 8-10 minutes. Toward the end of kneading, press the raisins/cherries in and knead just until combined.
  5. Form a ball by folding the dough under all sides so that it has a tight balloon top and let the dough rise somewhere warm for 75-90 minutes until at least doubled.
  6. Divide the dough in 3 roughly equal parts and roll them out into a snake shape. Slightly wet one of the 3 with just a little water and roll it in the toasted sesame seeds. Pinch the 3 pieces together at one end and braid them, tucking the ends under and pinching just a bit to hold them together.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  8. Put the braided dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat, cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking oil and let rise another 30-45 minutes.
  9. Uncover and bake the bread for 35-40 minutes, until it temps about 200°F in the center.
  10. Let the bread cool to room temperature then brush it with the thin glaze and sprinkle with the yellow, green, and purple sugars. Once the glaze is dry, it’s ready to slice and eat.
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