Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fruits and Nut Braid

For a number of reasons I needed a vacation, so Sweetie and I took one last week and visited some grand and natural wonders in southern Utah and northern Arizona.

You would be hard pressed to find more spectacular scenery, especially if you like rocks. We were able to squeeze in Las Vegas (well the airport anyway),

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

as well as a number of National Forests. We even took an unplanned trip past the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by heading in the opposite direction to where we wanted to go on our last day in Utah.

If you ever find yourself in the area, I can highly recommend two B&Bs. In St. George which is about 1 1/2 hours north of Las Vegas, we stayed in the Green Gate Village Inns,

which is a collection of buildings from the late 1800s which have been renovated beautifully. The accommodations were excellent and the breakfasts were lovely.

At the Purple Sage Inn in Kanab, further east near to Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon north rim, it was almost like staying in your own restored Victorian. The details were exceptional from unusual and beautiful bath and sink fittings to gorgeous wallpaper to lovely light fixtures to fine china on the table for breakfast. I fell in love with the kitchen and can imagine how great it would be to cook in a kitchen that is so well laid out and planned.

The front parlor is welcoming and we found that it was cool enough for a fire in the fireplace. The innkeeper, a native of Kanab, is hospitable, friendly and enjoyable to talk she is a great cook. Even though we had interesting conversations with other guests at the St. George B&B, at the Purple Sage it was somehow more like sitting around your own table and talking with new friends.

In the evening conversation was lively in the living room around the fireplace, too, although there are plenty of places to just hang out and read or spend some quiet time if that is what you prefer.

Now that we are home, the sourdough starters were fed and I decided to make a braid similar to one I made last year. Somehow the combination of golden raisins, cranberries and pecans seems right in the fall. This time I used some sourdough starter instead of dry yeast and I substituted maple syrup for the brown sugar. After all, maple syrup is a fall/winter kind of ingredient.

The braid baked up beautifully and is delicious with a cup of tea, toasted. We also enjoyed it as sandwich bread today as part of a turkey sandwich. Since it isn't very sweet it worked quite well.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting event...a wonderland of bread recipes...I highly recommend following the link if you love bread and other yeasted delights.

Festive Braid with Raisins, Cranberries, Pecans, Maple and Orange

1 cup sourdough starter
2 ¼ - 3 cups unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (colored part only)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons golden raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
¼ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup warm milk (105 – 115 degrees F)
1 egg, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

egg wash- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
sanding sugar

Place sourdough starter in bottom of stand mixer bowl. Add the maple syrup, warm milk, and egg and mix to blend. Set aside.

Combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, salt, orange zest, raisins, dried cranberries and toasted chopped pecans in large measuring cup or bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Add the dry ingredients and the butter to the yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead using the stand mixer and the dough hook or knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk – about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide the dough into thirds. Make three ropes. Braid on a greased, parchment covered, or silicon mat covered baking sheet.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double – about 30 -45 minutes. Brush with egg glaze and sprinkle with sanding sugar right before putting in the oven.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. If crust is getting too brown, tent with aluminum foil. Interior temperature should be about 210 degrees F.

Cool on a wire rack.

Optional: Make the Confectioners’ Icing, then drizzle it over the cool loaf. Sprinkle with the additional pecans and some candied cherries to decorate. Let the icing dry before serving.

Confectioners Sugar icing: Mix together 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest and 1-2 tablespoons milk.


  1. Great scenery and a fluffy loaf.

  2. Anonymous2:08 AM

    That braided loaf sounds really delicious...and stunning canyons. Must make you feel very small looking down in to that.

  3. Looks gorgeous and I love the idea of adding maple - very autumnal