Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Swedish Coffee Braid with Czech Twists

Neil's Mother always made Swedish Coffee Braid for Christmas morning, even though we aren't Swedish! Mark's Dad's family is Swedish, so it all comes full circle. At any rate, Neil loves to make this bread in loving memory of dear Mother, Beatrice.  Every year, though it seems, the recipe gets modified a bit to fit in with the current year's events or, for instance, where we're living!

So, we were pleased to learn about the traditional Czech bread, Vanocka (see earlier posting) which is also braided. Vanocka has a lot of history connected with it since the 16th century with all kinds of traditions that transcend just making a special bread. For more information, please read more about it at this link:

To celebrate where we are and transform a traditional bread with new, extended meanings here's this year's Swedish Coffee Braid with hats off to Beatrice, Czech cranberries, southern pecans (thanks, Judy!), and Marzipan (Austria, Germany, Czech)...

Roast 150 g of southern U.S. pecans (Carya illinoensis) in the oven at 100-125C (~300-325F) until toasted; quickly remove from oven before they burn. Set aside ~15 or so roasted nuts for topping later; the rest need to be ground fairly fine. Set aside.
Mix together 1.5 cups lukewarm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cardamon (ground) and 1 tablespoon yeast. Let the yeast begin to work until it is foamy on the top. In a large mixing bowl, to this add 1/2 cup soft butter, zest and juice from 1 orange, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup rum, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the roasted nuts. Add in flour (fine) until the dough can be worked with your hands to knead without sticking (~3.75-4.0 cups or ~250-300 g).
Let rise in a warm, moist place for ~1-1.5 hours until doubled in size; punch it down and let it rise again.
Cut dough, on a floured surface, into two equal sized pieces. With each piece, divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each one with the palm of your hand until they are ~0.3 m in length (~1 foot). Braid these together and place onto a greased baking pan. Let rise another 0.5 hours...again, in a warm, humid place. Heat oven to 125C or ~325F. Brush a beaten egg with zest from 1 orange onto the outer surface of the braids. Bake in the oven until crunchy brown (they're done when the bottom of each braid is brown). Cool.

Meanwhile, take ~1 cup of dried Czech cranberries and soak them in 1/2 cup of cranberry liquer, Brusinka (made in Trebon....see earlier posting) until the cranberries have swelled in size.
Have a glass of Brusinka while they're soaking. Also make an icing from the juice of the orange you just zested for the egg wash (above); add enough powdered sugar (Cukr moucka) to this to make a fairly stiff icing (it will run a bit after putting it on the braids, so don't worry).

When the braids are cooled and you've consumed the Brusinka, spoon or brush the orange icing across the tops of the braids, particularly the edges so that it will drip and run down. Also, fill the valley in the middle when the braids come together. Now place in the roasted pecans as ornamentation, the Brusinka soaked cranberries, and add in a few choice Marzipan (see earlier posting) that you have made (we used the fruit ones). Sprinkle with snowy stars, if you like.
When they're completely cooled after a few hours and you recover from the Brusinka either place the braids on platters or, if you're giving these away as treats for someone special, then we make quick supports from cardboard
and covered with aluminum foil:
Here's our 6 loaves we made the other day for giving away to our dear hosts here in the Czech Republic.
Slice and eat with freshly churned butter (maslo) or add on some homemade jam to complement the savory sensations that will fuse your memories with the current sensory delights you will enjoy!
Dubro chut' or Bon Appetit!
Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.


  1. Guys, your breads look fantastic...a work of art I might add!