23 January 2011

Crazy for Cardamom

Voluptuous cardamom-y goodness.

Once upon a time, in a world far less perfect than the one I currently inhabit, I baked this bread only around the holidays. I've changed my ways. There's no wrong time for cardamom bread. I made three loaves last week, and we (all two of us) have demolished them. 

Cardamom bread is a good idea anytime: as a snack with or without butter; for breakfast as is or made into French toast; in the middle of the night, hunkered over a loaf in the dark. And remember, coffee loves cardamom bread. And cardamom bread loves coffee.

It's a simple braided bread. Ingredients are below. I'll be back later to add my method.

Cardamom Bread (1 loaf)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur's)
3-4 teaspoons ground cardamom (this is a matter of personal preference; if you have whole cardamom pods, use 4 or 5 pods — remove seeds from pods and crush with a rolling pin)
2 teaspoons yeast
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
a sprinkling of granulated sugar

It is now later.

(Truth time: I used instant dry yeast for this recipe. I had never used it before, so bear with me, but somehow the stuff ended up in our cart at a nearby wholesale warehouse establishment that will remain nameless. "Somehow" meaning that in my free-food-sample-induced craze while roaming the aisles, I blindly threw the jumbo pack into our otherwise well-thought-out mix of goods. And as it looks like instant dry yeast will be in my pantry for months, if not years, into the future, here's to using it with a smile on my face.)

Combine butter cubes with milk and microwave for a minute (if no microwave, melt butter into milk in a saucepan over low heat). 

Add milk/butter combo to bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment along with 1 egg, sugar, salt, cardamom and 1 cup flour. Mix until combined.

In separate bowl, mix instant dry yeast with remaining 2 cups flour (for 30 seconds, according to the Fleischmann's package).

With mixer running, gradually scoop flour/yeast mixture into other ingredients to combine.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low for about 4-5 minutes (or knead by hand —much more rewarding).

Place dough in a greased bowl (a deep one) and cover with plastic. Leave to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (My house averages about 55 degrees, so I cheated and left my dough to rise in a warm oven.)

Divide dough into 3 parts and roll into ropes. Place on a baking sheet, cover with a cloth and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Braid the dough, then let rise (covered) for another 45 minutes.

Whisk 1 egg with 1 tablespoon milk to make glaze; brush over braid. Sprinkle sugar over top. (You will have leftover glaze; go glaze something else.)

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or so. (Tap the bread with your finger; it is done when it sounds hollow.) 

Let cool completely on wire rack before slicing. 

(Gluttonous on occasion, never meaning any real harm, I sometimes convince myself that the bread is cool enough to have a go with me and my knife a wee bit prematurely. Nothing bad happens. We all enjoy ourselves.)


  1. Yum. You make it sound so easy. A burning question: do I really need a standing mixer to be a decent baker? I hope not.

  2. Of course not. Just insert your good old-fashioned muscle power wherever I show off using the stand mixer. If anything, working the dough by hand is more fun.