Yield: 2 loaves
- 1 cup milk
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
- 1/4 cup warm (not hot) water
- 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 4 cups (two pint jars) spiced apples
- milk for basting loaves
- sparkling sugar
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a scald. Remove immediately from the heat and cool until it is "finger" warm (105°F to 105°F).
As the milk cools, whisk the yeast into the warm water until it dissolves; allow it to "proof" for 15 minutes, or until the liquid begins to froth.
Combine the milk, yeast mixture, butter, sugar, salt, beaten egg and cardamom in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle blade, beat in 2 cups of the flour at the mixer's "low" setting, just until the flour is combined. Replace the paddle blade with the dough hook; at your mixer's medium-low setting ("2" on a KitchenAid), incorporate enough of the remaining flour until the dough is slightly firm and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Turn off the mixer and allow to sit for 20 minutes to "autolyse."
After 10 minutes, turn the mixer on again and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is smooth, glossy, and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled.
After the yeast has risen, punch it down. Transfer it to a very lightly floured counter, and divide it into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a 15" x 3" rectangle.
Rinse the sliced apples to remove any adhering cardamom seeds, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Chop the apples into a 1/2" dice, then spread them equally down the middle of each rectangle.
Tightly pinch the sides of each rectangle together to encase the spiced apple filling. Lay 3 of the "ropes" parallel to each other and loosely braid, tucking the ends under and pinching to seal (Note: for a great demonstration of the technique, have a look at Guide to Bread Baking Elizabeth's Yetter's illustrated step-by-step directions "a href="http://breadbaking.about.com/od/braidedbreads/tp/Step-By-Step-How-To-Braid-Bread.htm">here). Repeat for the second loaf.
Transfer the two loaves to a lightly greased cookie sheet, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops and sides of the braided bread loaves with milk, sprinkle generously with sparkling sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until light golden-brown.
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