chilean christmas bread

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Servs: 1

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  • add   1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • add   1 1/2 teaspoons brandy
  • add   1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • add   4 large eggs, room temperature
  • add   Pinch of sugar
  • add   3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • add   <B>For dough:</B>
  • add   1/3 cup golden raisins
  • add   1/3 cup sugar
  • add   1/3 cup candied ginger or lemon or orange peel
  • add   1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • add   1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • add   1/3 dark raisins
  • add   1/2 cup dried or glac&eacute;ed cherries
  • add   <B>For yeast sponge:</B>
  • add   3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • add   Finely grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
  • add   1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Make sponge:
  2. In 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir together 1/2 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F) and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over and stir, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until sponge rises to top of measuring cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover and stir mixture down.
  3. Prepare dough and bake bread:
  4. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add salt and zest and beat until combined. Add 3 eggs, 1 at time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 cups flour and mix at low speed until combined. Add remaining 1 cup flour, remaining 1 egg, brandy, and vanilla and mix at low speed until smooth.
  5. Increase speed to medium and beat dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add cherries, dark and golden raisins, and candied fruit, and mix at low speed until incorporated.
  6. Lightly butter clean, large bowl. Turn dough out onto work surface and form into ball. Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl snugly with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  7. Line 8-inch diameter (at top) flowerpot with foil and lightly grease foil. (Alternatively, lightly grease 9-inch diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides.) Turn dough out onto work surface and knead 1 minute, then transfer to pot or pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  8. Arrange rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Remove plastic wrap from dough in pan and transfer pan to oven. Bake 20 minutes, then lay sheet of foil loosely on top of loaf. Continue baking until bread is nicely puffed and golden-brown, about 25 to 30 minutes more. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then unmold and cool completely before slicing and eating.
  9. Cook's Notes:
  10. • Dissolving the yeast in water that's the correct temperature is key: water that is not hot enough will result in a rise that is too slow; water that is too hot will kill the yeast, and the dough will not rise at all. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of the water: To get an accurate reading, begin with more water than you need, and then pour the extra off.
  11. • Be sure to use active dry yeast, not instant.
  12. • Before you begin, be sure that your butter and eggs are at room temperature. To warm the eggs, place them in a small bowl and then add several changes of hot water to cover.
  13. • A standing mixer is the best to make this bread, which is too soft to knead by hand and exhausting to knead by stirring. Use the paddle attachment for best results.
  14. • A baker's trick: Use an empty butter wrapper to grease the bowl for rising.
  15. • When letting the dough rise, look for a warm, draft-free area of the kitchen. If your kitchen is somewhat cold, turn the oven on to its lowest setting and set the dough on the stovetop (but not too close to the oven vents).