Friday, September 18, 2015

Basil Marzipan Sweet Braid Bread

Ever since I can remember living in Germany I have oogled the sweet braided breads in the bakeries of whatever town I was in. They are a marvel. There are many varieties of this beautifully knotted golden goodness. Hefezopf (literal translation is yeast braid) originates from the south and is also popular in Austria and Switzerland. 

There are endless varieties on the traditional version. The one here uses homemade basil marzipan made with fresh basil leaves which is definitely the star ingredient. In most cases, marzipan is cheaper to make than buy. However, the store bought variety works just as well in this recipe.

The glaze is simply flavored with freshly squeezed lemon juice and topped with blanched almond leaves for crunch and an additional pop of flavor.

Another great excuse to use up the rest of the basil in your garden or whatever is left at the early fall farmers markets.
Basil Marzipan Sweet Braid Bread
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rise Time: 1hr. 50 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes 
Yield: 1 dozen slices 


For the dough:
  • 3+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope (7grams) dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 10 ounces marzipan* 
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
For the glaze:
(I doubled the amounts below for the basil braid in the photo)
  • 1+1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond leaves
*recipe below


Make the dough:
  • Place the all-purpose flour in a large bowl and make an impression in the middle. 
  • Dissolve the yeast in 4 tablespoons of the lukewarm milk. Stir the softened yeast into the rest of the all-purpose flour. It should look like shredded dough. 
  • Cover the bowl with a dish towel and store in a warm place for 20 minutes. 
  • Retrieve the mixture. Sprinkle the white granulated sugar and salt over the top. 
  • Cut the butter into pieces and disburse them over the dough. Add the rest of the milk. 
  • Knead the dough with your hands until it becomes smooth. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment for this step. 
  • Once again, cover the bowl with a dish towel and store in a warm place for 60 minutes. The size of the dough should double in this time. 
Make the filling:
  • Add the water and white granulated sugar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to cool completely. 
  • Add the cooled sugar water and the fresh basil leaves to a blender or food processor and purée. 
  • Add the marzipan in pieces pulsing to combine. 
  • Add one cup of the powdered sugar and pulse to combine. 
  • Add the remaining powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the mass is the consistency of thick glue. It should not be runny, however, it should spread easily. If you add too much powdered sugar or the mass is still too thick, thin the consistency out by adding white corn syrup, one teaspoon at a time until it smooths out. 
Form the bread:
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Remove the dough from its warm place and divide it into three equal portions. You may want to use a kitchen scale to be precise. 
  • On a floured work surface, roll each portion out into a long rectangle, making sure the dough logs are of equal length and width. Brush the basil marzipan mixture onto the middle each of the three long rectangles leaving at least a one-inch frame on all sides. 
  • From the long side, roll each of the long rectangles up into a long strand. Place the three strands next to each other. 
  • Press the three ends of the strands together at one end and gently braid the strands, always placing the outer strands over the middle strand. Squeeze the ends together when you are done braiding. Place the braid on the parchment lined baking sheet and let it rest for another 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the basil marzipan braid in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. 
  • Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack. Set the rack over the baking sheet lined with baking paper and let cool completely before glazing. 
Make the Lemon scented glaze:
  • Whisk together the remaining cup and a half of powdered sugar with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest. 
  • Pour the mixture evenly over the baked basil marzipan braid. 
  • While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle the blanched almond leaves evenly over the top. 
  • Let glaze cool completely before cutting and serving. 
Homemade Marzipan Recipe:
  • 1+1/2 cups *blanched ground almonds
  • 1+1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater 
  • 2 tablespoons egg white
  • Light corn syrup and extra powdered sugar to adjust consistency if needed 
If you are using almond flour, skip the next two steps.
  • *To blanch raw almonds, boil them in water for one minute, rinse immediately in a colander with cold water and squeeze the skins off with your fingers. They will slip off easily. 
  • Pulse the blanched almonds and a tablespoon of powdered sugar in a food processor until they are completely pulverized. The powdered sugar will prevent the almonds from becoming paste. 
  • Add the 1+1/2 cups cup powdered sugar to the food processor and pulse until the almond meal and powdered sugar are combined. I like to take out the blade and use a whisk to break up any lumps that have formed and then replace the blade and pulse a few more times. 
  • Add the pure almond extract and the rosewater and pulse until combined. Add the egg white and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth. 
  • Wrap the mixture with plastic cling film, stow in a zip lock bag and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can also freeze it. 
Makes roughly 18 ounces

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