It’s always nice to have a basic sweet dough recipe in your files. This one is rich and buttery, but easy to work with, and lends itself to many variations. I used half of the dough to make a raspberry braid with a streusel topping and the other half for cinnamon rolls. Thanksgiving is only three days away; after which begins a month of cooking, shopping, socializing, gift-wrapping and decorating for the holiday season. A batch of sweet dough can come in handy when you need a freshly-baked bread for a breakfast or brunch table. In the preface to the recipe below, the author, Beth Hensperger, writes, “A good all-purpose sweet dough has a place in every baker’s repertoire, as all sweet doughs are minor variations of the same basic proportions, though the fillings and shapes will vary. As this bread bakes, the kitchen will fill with a delicate perfume.” Here are two variations of sweet yeast dough.
Sweet Yeast Dough ( from “Baking Bread: Old and New Traditions” by Beth Hensperger)
*(This dough requires an overnight rise in the refrigerator)*
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
1 1/4 cups warm milk (105 to 115 F)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces.
To prepare the sponge: In a large bowl, using a whisk, or in the workbowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, sugar, water, milk, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat hard until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes, until bubbly.
Add the eggs, zest, salt, sugar, and 1 cup more of the flour to the sponge.
Beat until smooth. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time to form a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl. It is important that this dough be very soft.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, shiny, and soft, about 2 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of flour at a time to prevent sticking. It is important that the dough remain very soft and pliable.
At the beginning of kneading it will look like the photo above. By the end of kneading it should look like this:
Place in a greased deep container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently deflate the dough, re-cover, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. When ready to bake, turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Return one half to the refrigerator while you shape the first half.
Here is the recipe for the filling and streusel for the Raspberry Braid. (It makes enough to fill and top two loaves).
2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or fruit liqueur, such as framboise
1/2 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
To prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine all the filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the fruit juices are thick, stirring occasionally and gently to keep the berries as whole as possible. Take care not to let it scorch. The mixture will be quite thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
To prepare the streusel: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, zest, cinnamon, and flour. Cut in the butter pieces until coarse crumbs are formed. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one 1/2 of the chilled dough to an 8 x 12 inch rectangle. Transfer to a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and even out the rectangular shape. Spread half the raspberry filling down the center of the rectangle. With a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips at 2 inch intervals down the outside portions of the dough, almost through to the filling.
Starting at the top, fold the strips alternately from each side at a slight angle. If there is any excess at the end, tuck it under.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. (You can prepare both pieces of dough as Raspberry Braids or make twelve cinnamon rolls as you will see in the instructions below). Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F. Sprinkle the surface of the plait(s) with the streusel. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool completely on a rack.
Raspberry Braid ready for the oven.
Freshly Baked Raspberry Braid
Now for the cinnamon rolls: On a lightly-floured work surface, roll the remaining half of the chilled dough to an approximately 12×18 inch rectangle. Brush the surface of the dough with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle 2/3 cup lightly packed golden brown sugar, 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped, and 2/3 cup raisins or coarsely chopped dried cherries over the dough rectangle, leaving a small border at the sides.
Roll the dough, from the long side, into a tight cylinder. Cut with a sharp knife into 12 equal-sized rolls and arrange in a well-greased 9×13 inch pan.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise at room temperature until puffy, about 1 hour. Bake in a 350F preheated oven until golden and firm, about 18 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan, then lift the rolls out with a large spatula and allow to cool on a rack. Glaze the rolls with a mixture of 1/2-2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar and enough heavy cream to form a glaze that will fall easily from a spoon. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and allow it to set.
Enjoy these sweet treats with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and have a Happy Thanksgiving!