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Christmas Morning Finnish Coffee Bread
By Charlie Burke

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This moist and flavorful bread has been
served in our home on Christmas morning
for many years, and our grown sons
consider “Christmas bread” one of our
important family traditions. The origins
of this particular recipe are obscure – it is
hand written in the back of a cook book
published by, oddly enough, Vincent Price
in 1965 and is on the next page after
my grandmother’s recipe for fruit cake.

I’ve seen similar Scandinavian recipes over the years, all of which include
cardamom seeds. It is made only at Christmas in our home, but certainly would be
a welcome at any breakfast. This recipe is for six loaves. The baked loaves freeze
well and when wrapped in foil and heated in a 325 F degree oven are almost as
good as when freshly baked. We enjoy giving the extras to neighbors on Christmas
morning, but the recipe can easily be halved.  

9 cups all purpose flour – we use King Arthur
2 cups warm milk (not low fat)
2 packages dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (90 – 110 degrees)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling loaves before
baking
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup softened butter
Seeds from 20 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cup sliced almonds
Egg wash (1 egg white whisked with ½ teaspoon water)

Dissolve yeast in the water and cover with a dish towel until bubbles appear. Mix
sugar, eggs, salt, milk, butter, cardamom seeds and approximately 1 cup of flour
and beat until soft. Add yeast and the remainder of the flour and knead until firm
and smooth (Joanne uses the dough hook on her mixer, but certainly it can be done
by hand).

In a bowl covered with a towel, let dough rise until doubled in size. Turning your
oven on for a minute or two will warm it slightly and the dough will rise well in
the oven. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until
smooth.

To shape, divide dough in half and divide each half into thirds, providing dough
for six loaves. Divide each loaf’s dough into thirds, and roll each third on the work
surface into “ropes” of equal length (they will be about 12 inches long). Place the
three ropes together and braid into a single loaf. Place each loaf onto a buttered
baking sheet, cover and let rise until doubled. The bread can be baked at this time
or the dough can be covered with towels, refrigerated overnight and baked the
next day.

Bake at 375 F. degree over for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

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