Cranberry-orange braid coffee cakes

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cran:orange braidsCranberries are probably one of my all-time favorites. Those brilliant ruby-like berries are great for all sorts of sauces and baked goods too. The late fall through the Christmas holidays is the time to buy them fresh and stash a few bags in the freezer (Just pop them into the freezer in the bags they come it and they’ll be just fine for months.) to use later.

Here’s a much-requested recipe that I have been making for years. I found it many years ago in a magazine column by Lucy Wing. Although the pages are yellowed and food-splattered from frequent use, I could not find a date, nor the name of the magazine from which they were torn. The recipe makes two large and absolutely gorgeous, rich and flavorful coffee cakes — one to enjoy now and one to freeze for later or share with a lucky someone.

Filling:

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Prepare filling. Rinse and pick over cranberries. In a three-qurt saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, mixing well. Stir in orange juice, rind and cranberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly until berries pop and mixture thickens to consistency of preserves. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate until cold, about two hours.

Bread dough:

1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cups butter, softened
7 to 7 1/2 cups bread flour
2 packages or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, divided

In saucepan or microwave, heat water and butter until warm (120 to 130 degrees). In large bowl with electric mixer at low speed, combine two cups flour, the yeast, sugar, orange rind and salt. Gradually beat water-butter mixture into flour until well mixed. Increase speed to medium and beat two minutes. Separate one egg and add yolk to flour mixture, reserving one egg white in a cup. Reduce speed to low, beat in remaining three eggs and two cups flour until a soft dough forms.

With wooden spoon, stir in enough flour (about two cups) to form a stiff dough. Turn dough out into a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about five minutes. Shape into a ball and place in lightly-oiled bowl to rise in a warm place, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Butter a large baking sheet for two long coffee cakes or butter one baking sheet for each. Divide dough in half and roll out each half into a 14 by 10-inch rectangle. Place on baking sheet. Brush top of each with some of the reserved egg white.

Spread half of cranberry filling down the center of each. Cut dough crosswise on each side of filling into one-inch wide strips. Fold strips alternately across the filling. Cover braids loosely with clean cloths and let rise until about double in size, about 20 minutes. ladder daigram

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush tops of braids with reserved egg white. Bake about 20 minutes, brush again with egg white and bake another 10 minutes or until each braid is done and sounds hollow when tapped on the top. Cool on wire racks.

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A palm wreath for a Southern-style Chrismtas

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palm wreathEarly settlers to the Sunshine State did not have the option of “imported” fir Christmas trees for holiday decorating. Instead they made-do with what was at hand. Red cedar trees provided greenery and even palm fronds were called into action. Here’s a simple wreath to make with materials you gather from the woods.
 Start with a wire wreath form, or just bend a wire coat hanger into a circle — which is what I did here. Look for small palmetto fronds and trim ends of fronds and cut stems to about four inches long.
Start tying two or three fronds together to the form the first bunch. Working your way around the circle, add another bunch on top of the previous bunch slightly farther up the ring and over the stems of the previous bunch until you get back to the starting point. Use florists wire or string to secure each bunch tightly to the form or coat hanger. Work the final bunch in so that the stems are hidden under the first bunch. Hot glue on some seashells or starfish and “fill in” with a bit of Spanish moss here and there. I used a raffia “bow,” but a burlap one would look great too. Have fun!