Not sure if you believe in spiritual guides or not, I usually am a grain of salter regarding spirituality in general. I do, however, spend a lot of time thinking about these things, especially when it comes to food. There is a theory of a “collective voice” being heritable, generations of knowledge passed down biologically, that we then feel and label as intuition. We somehow figure out how to make things work without explicitly being taught. I find some comfort in the hybrid of a spiritual voice and a biological pathway. It gives people the freedom to interpret these feelings in any way they choose. Hey, if it works for migrating butterflies, why not with humans?
I can always feel the “collective voice” of the women in my family guiding me with food and through the kitchen. This bread in particular came very easy to me. For some reason with this bread, I just knew what to do. I saw this basket of cherries at the farmer’s market and instantly knew they belonged in a sweet Swedish dough, braided, and wrapped up for the eating. You can do a simple icing to make it more of a dessert, but it is delicious as a coffee cake. This recipe makes two loaves (which was a nice surprise!), play around with the fillings and find what speaks to you at the market. Give one to someone whose heart needs a little love, and indulge in one yourself.
Braided Swedish Bread with cherry preserves…
1 ½ tsp yeast
¼ cup warm water
4-5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cardamom (optional but I LOVE)
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
¼ cup butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup sugar
splash of water to thin slightly
Handful of raw sliced almonds
2 cups pitted cherries
1/3 cup sugar (I like mine tart) adjust sugar to your liking
Dash of bitter almond extract
¼ tsp agar agar flakes dissolved in ¼ cup water (optional) or ¼ cup orange juice
Prepare dough. Mix together yeast and water set aside. Mix together flour, salt, and cardamom and set aside. Then in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine yogurt, butter, sugar, and egg. Then slowly add yeast mixture. Then cup by cup, add flour mixture and once tacky switch to a dough hook attachment. Keep adding flour little by little until dough forms a nice ball. You may not use the whole amount. Transfer to a floured surface and kneed gently for 1-2 minutes, then form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
While dough is rising, make preserves. Pit and roughly chop cherries. Place in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and stir regularly as the cherries breakdown. When simmering, I added the agar agar flake mixture to thicken the preserves so that while baking, the preserves would not excessively ooze out of the bread. Sometimes the natural pectin just is not enough. You can also add apple peel for another source of pectin. Once thickened, and the preserves cover and stick to your spoon, they are done. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After bread has risen, punch dough down. Cut in half. Roll out dough into ovals. With a sharp knife, make cuts along both long sides of the oval about 1/3 of the way into the oval. Make sure they line up on both sides. Then spread preserves down the middle and wrap, alternating sides. Seal at the bottom with a little water. Brush with egg wash and top with almonds. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Slice and serve warm with coffee.
Eat together, toast to each other, and share!