This festive, braided bread makes a lovely centerpiece and a delicious accompaniment to your holiday meal. The addition of Oregon-grown cranberries and fresh thyme are perfect for pairing with turkey, ham or prime rib with all the trimmings.
Active time: 1 hour
Non-active time: approx. 2 hours
Special tools: food processor, stand mixer, parchment paper, pastry brush
Make ahead: cranberry spread could be made up to a week ahead
Savory Cranberry Spread
1 T oil
1 sm onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ c fresh cranberries
1/3 c sugar
¼ c sweet red vermouth
2 T white balsamic vinegar
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
In a saucepan, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic until softened but not colored, approx. 5 min, stirring occasionally.
Place cranberries and sugar in a food processor bowl and process to a paste. Add vermouth and vinegar to the saucepan and cook until reduced by half (about 3 T). Add to saucepan cranberry paste and salt and pepper, setting aside processor bowl for later use. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until thickened, approx. 6-8 min, stirring often with a rubber spatula, until no juices remain on bottom of pan. Allow it to cool a few minutes, then transfer to food processor bowl and work into a paste. Refrigerate and cool completely before using. Could be made ahead and chilled up to a week.
1¼ t dried yeast
1/3 c milk, lukewarm
2 eggs, beaten
2 ¾ c unbleached bread flour
¾ t salt
1½ T honey or sugar
1½ T melted butter or vegetable oil
1/3 – ½ c lukewarm water
1 T fresh thyme leaves
Dissolve yeast in milk. Allow to foam, 5 min. If no foam appears (inactive), discard and start over with a fresh yeast packet. Reserve 1 T of egg, then place all ingredients, except water and thyme, in a mixer bowl. Add 1/3 c water and combine with dough hook on slow speed; adjust water or flour, if needed, erring on the wet side. Knead dough on second speed for 6 min. Add thyme, knead 2 min more. Cover dough in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in volume.
On a floured work surface, roll dough to a 24” x 12” rectangle.
Spread cranberry paste onto 2/3 of dough lengthwise, leaving 1/3 bare.
Fold into thirds: flip the bare third over the cranberry paste, covering middle 1/3.
Then flip over remaining 1/3 for a rectangle, approx. 4” x 24”.
Leave 1” of one end uncut (attached); cut remainder lengthwise into three long strips.
Strips should be connected at one end and free at the other end.
Trim edges of the two outside strips, revealing spread.
At attached end, braid dough, twisting to expose layers.
As you braid, pull gently on the strands to ensure even thickness and length.
Gather ends and bring together, creating a circle, pinching braid end and flattening attached end.
Overlap strips with flattened end, tucking corners under and hiding seam.
Draw a 10” circle on parchment paper. Turn paper over on baking sheet; grease lightly. Carefully transfer wreath onto parchment and arrange dough to fit the circle.
Heat oven to 350º. Add 1 t water to reserved egg. Brush dough with egg and let rise 40 min in a warm place until almost doubled in volume. Brush again with egg.
Bake 30-35 min until golden and baked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.