Cardamom bread: a family tradition

Today, I am very excited to bring you my veganized version of a recipe that has been a part of my family’s Christmas for as long as I can remember. Beginning in mid-December, my mom bakes five or six batches of braided cardamom bread to give to nearby family and close friends as a Christmas gift. The bread is soft and sweet, with just the perfect amount of cardamom. It’s so good when it’s warm out of the oven that my mom has to budget a loaf for the family every time she bakes, and we all come running as soon as the bread has cooled enough to slice! Most of a loaf can easily disappear within 20 minutes. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

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Cardamom Braid

(Adapted from a recipe in Yankee Magazine.)

Makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ c + 1 Tbsp vegan margarine, divided
  • 1.5 Tbsp (2 packages; 14g) active dry yeast
  • ½ c (100g) granulated sugar
  • ½ c (120g) applesauce
  • ~4 ½ c (~630g) all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • ½ c raisins (optional)

Combine the milk and ¼ c margarine in a microwaveable container or small saucepan, and heat until the margarine is melted and the mixture feels warm but not hot to the touch on the inside of your wrist (110-115 degrees F).

Pour the warm milk mixture into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Let sit until the yeast has formed puffy bubbles on the surface of the liquid, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and applesauce. Next, add about 1 ½ c flour, salt, and cardamom. Mix the dough well, then start adding additional flour until the dough is kneadable. Knead the dough, continuing to add small amounts of flour as needed until the dough is smooth and pliable but no longer sticky. If you would like to add raisins to the bread, knead them into the dough at this point.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled.

Remove the dough from the bowl and fold a couple of times to deflate. Divide the dough in half, and then divide each half into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each of the six balls out into a rope about 1-1 ½” thick and about 12” long. Take three of the ropes and braid them together, tucking the loose ends underneath the braid. Repeat with the remaining three ropes.

Place the two braided loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently cover the loaves with a sheet of greased plastic wrap so the plastic doesn’t stick to the dough. Let rise 30-45 minutes, until puffy and approximately doubled in size. Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of vegan margarine in the microwave or on the stovetop. Brush melted margarine over the braids and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the loaves for about 22-25 minutes, or until the bottom is firm and sounds hollow when tapped and/or the bread has reached an internal temperature of 185-190 degrees F. Let cool a few minutes before slicing, if you can bear to wait!

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The case of the disappearing squash

Whether you’re going out to eat or just sitting at home browsing the web, it’s all about the pumpkin and the butternut squash recipes this time of year. I love pumpkin and butternut squash of course, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on the many other delicious varieties of winter squash! Spaghetti squash is a fun alternative to pasta, delicata squash is beautiful when roasted in little rings with its edible skin left on, and kabocha squash makes a great stew.

Today, I’m bringing you a recipe that uses a common variety of winter squash rarely used in baking: acorn squash. If you’re looking for a recipe that makes acorn squash shine, this is sadly not it: the roasted squash disappears quietly into the background of this bread loaf, adding sweetness and moisture but little squash-y flavor. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get more vegetables into some picky eaters, they will never guess your game when you serve them this bread! 😉

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Acorn Squash Bread

Makes one 8 ½ x 4” loaf.

Note: If you are new to baking yeast bread, King Arthur Flour has many great resources for learning the techniques!

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • olive oil for brushing on squash
  • ¾ c almond milk, divided
  • 1 Tbsp vegan margarine, melted
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ tsp; 7 g) active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 ½ – 3 c (350 – 450g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil onto the flesh of the squash and place cut side-down on a baking sheet. Roast the squash in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

In a blender, puree ½ c (~120 g) squash flesh with ¼ c almond milk and the melted margarine. Set aside the remaining squash for another use.

Warm the remaining ½ c almond milk to 100-115 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, liquid at this temperature should feel warm but not hot if applied to the inside of your wrist (don’t test with your fingers because they are less sensitive to heat). Pour the warm almond milk into a large bowl and stir in the yeast until dissolved. Let the yeast and milk sit for about five minutes, until you see brown bubbles from the yeast blooming on the surface of the milk.

Add the maple syrup and squash puree to the bowl, and mix well. Next, add about 2 cups of flour along with the nutmeg and salt. Stir the ingredients together into a dough. Add additional flour in small increments until the dough is firm enough to knead. Knead the dough for several minutes, incorporating more flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and springy but not sticky.

Oil a large bowl, place the kneaded dough inside, and cover with plastic wrap. Set the dough aside in a draft-free location to rise for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. The actual rise time will depend on ambient temperature: setting the dough to rise in a warm oven will make it rise more quickly, but the flavor of the dough will be better developed at slightly cooler temperatures.

Grease an 8 ½ x 4” loaf pan. With greased or lightly floured hands, remove the dough from the bowl and fold it over on itself a couple of times, reshaping it into a log that will fit into the loaf pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. The rise is finished when the top of the dough is level with the top of the loaf pan.

When the dough is nearing the end of its rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. When the dough has finished rising, bake for about 35 minutes. The loaf is done when the top is browned, knocking on the bottom of the loaf produces a hollow sound, and (if you have an instant-read thermometer available) the internal temperature of the loaf is 190-195 degrees F.

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