Here’s my own take on a traditional Czechoslovakian bread: Vanocka. This is not a traditional version since I’ve swapped out some of the spices and traded dried cranberries for raisins, but you could use either. This recipe is great for the dough stage in a bread maker. The bread is really tender and because its braided, it makes a nice pull-apart bread. It’s sweet and flavorful and really pretty so it’s great for a holiday or any special meal. It’s best enjoyed the day you bake it, but if you have some leftovers, you can use it the following day for amazing french toast!
2/3 cup milk 1 tbsp yeast
1 egg 1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup softened butter 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water
1 tsp salt 2 tbsp slivered almonds
1/4 tsp ginger confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated orange peel
3 cups flour
1/4 cup of sugar
To start, I warm the milk (not hot) and let it sit in my mixing bowl with a bit of the sugar and all the yeast. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes then add the rest of the sugar and all the other ingredients (minus the cranberries, almonds, confectioners sugar and egg wash mixture) Mix on dough stage in a bread machine, by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. If using a mixture or by hand, cover bowl and dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area until doubled. If you’re using a bread machine, it will do the first rise for you.
When dough has doubled, beat down and kneed for several minutes on a floured surface. This is when you will mix in the cranberries. Cut the dough into three equal parts and roll each portion until it’s aprx. 14 inches long (this is also a variation on the traditional version as I use a simplified braiding technique.) Braid the ropes, pinch ends together and place on a baking stone. Loosely cover bread & place in a warm spot to double once more.
Preheat your oven to 375. Brush the braided dough with the egg wash and sprinkle the slivered almonds. Bake until golden-brown (aprx. 30 minutes, but it varies) and a wooden skewer comes out clean.
Cool slightly, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy!