I have a fabulous recipe to share today. I really like the Holiday Bread that Panera sells. In my "pre-bread obsession" days, I would often buy them as gifts for people at work and for neighbors. The past year or two, I've been a bit disappointed in the bread though. It seems like there's been some changes in the recipe? Or maybe it's just my increased experience with baking artisan breads that has raised the bar of expectation. Regardless, for me, the commercial version of this bread is just not as appealing as it used to be.
I wanted to make my own Holiday Bread this year, so I began searching for "copycat" recipes. I found one that I really like. Be advised that you need to set aside some time for this recipe because making Holiday Bread is a multi-step process. It's also a very rich brioche dough, which is mixed by hand. Absolutely NO machine mixing folks. Get ready to deal with some sticky dough in the initial stages, but trust me, it will result in a scrumptious loaf.
This recipe makes a huge loaf! Next time I will halve the recipe or divide the dough and make two smaller loaves. I prepared the apple filling with Granny Smith apples, and I used bourbon as the recipe lists. If you do not have bourbon, on line research I did said rum or vanilla (mixed 1 part vanilla with 2 parts water) can be used instead.
I mixed the dough with a danish dough whisk, which is a great tool for hand mixing wet doughs, but your hands or a wooden spoon will work too. I've included a picture of a danish dough whisk at the end of this post. If you are seriously into making no knead and high hydration doughs (translated- wetter, stickier doughs with higher moisture content), you will want to own one of these baking tools.
It's ok to have the dough very soft and wet with this recipe. To punch down and mix in the fruit/chips/nuts mix after the first rise, you will definitely need to grease your hands to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Do not wet your hands with water, as it will make the chocolate start to melt or dissolve into the dough. Be patient and work the dough enough to evenly distribute the mix. Using a stretch and fold technique is helpful. Pull a handful of dough out away from the dough and then fold it back onto itself. Rotate the bowl and do this over and over. The dough will also begin to change from being shaggy and wet to more smooth, but it will still be "wetter" than typical yeast dough. Transfer the dough ball to a well floured work surface and briefly knead and shape into a ball. Then roll out the dough into a rectangle (for one large loaf) or two small loaves. Be sure the surface is adequately floured to prevent sticking.
I followed the directions in the recipe except for the following changes. I held back about a 1/3 of the apple filling because I thought it would be too much to use it all. I didn't want to overwhelm the dough. Wrong! This dough will rise nicely on the final rise and will expand quite a bit during the bake. It will be able to accommodate all of the apple filling. Distribute the filling from end to end, or else you will have the first few slices be without apples (as happened to me). I also used chopped pecans instead of walnuts. I baked this very large loaf on a large baking pan (13x18), and used parchment paper for easy transfer of the loaf and to be sure there was no sticking. Test for doneness as the recipe advises. I made a half recipe for the icing, and I had more than enough, as you can see. But if you are into heavy icing, go ahead and make the icing as written.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. It's even better the next day!
Recipe link: http://www.michigandaily.com/arts/03nathan-wood-making-panera-holiday-classic-scratch28