Lat­vian Braided Birth­day Cake (Klin­geris)

SERVES 18–20

SAVEUR - - Contents -

Ac­tive: 55 min. • To­tal: 3 hr. 35 min.

Ev­ery fam­ily seems to have its own recipe for this tra­di­tional yeasted birth­day cake. Ruta Gailīte’s uses dough sim­i­lar to brioche, but re­lies on cream in­stead of but­ter for its rich­ness. With the ad­di­tion of plump dried fruit and ground car­damom and cin­na­mon, it makes a per­fect break­fast cake too.

2 cups light cream, at room tem­per­a­ture 6 Tbsp. plus ¾ cup su­gar, di­vided 2½ tsp. in­stant (not ac­tive dry) yeast 5 large eggs (di­vided) 7⅓ cups allpur­pose flour, plus more for dust­ing 1 Tbsp. kosher salt 1½ lb. as­sorted dried fruit (prunes, tart cher­ries, or raisins) 1¾ oz. candied ginger, finely chopped (⅓ cup) But­ter or lard, for greas­ing 1½ tsp. ground cin­na­mon 1 tsp. ground car­damom 1⅔ cup sweet­ened con­densed milk Pow­dered su­gar, for

dust­ing

1 In a very large bowl, whisk the cream, ¾ cup luke­warm wa­ter, 6 ta­ble­spoons su­gar, and the yeast. Add 4 of the eggs and whisk un­til smooth. Add half the flour and all of the salt and whisk un­til the mix­ture is smooth, shiny, and stringy, about 2 min­utes. Swap the whisk for a wooden spoon and add the rest of the flour, stir­ring un­til fully in­cor­po­rated into a very soft dough. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl, and cover the bowl with a heavy towel. Set aside at room tem­per­a­ture un­til the dough rises a few inches (it won’t dou­ble), about 1 hour. (When poked, the dough will be soft but shouldn’t stick to your fin­ger.)

2 Mean­while, pre­pare the fruit fill­ing: If the fruit is very hard and dry, cover it in boil­ing wa­ter and soak un­til ten­der, about 1 hour. Drain, dis­card the soak­ing liq­uid, and coarsely chop. Transfer the chopped fruit to a medium bowl, add the candied ginger, and stir to com­bine. Set aside.

3 In a small bowl, com­bine the re­main­ing ¾ cup of su­gar with the cin­na­mon and car­damom and set aside. In an­other small bowl, whisk the re­main­ing egg with 1 tea­spoon of cold wa­ter and set aside to use as an egg wash.

4 Grease a large, rimmed bak­ing sheet or rec­tan­gu­lar cake pan with but­ter or lard and line with parch­ment pa­per.

5 Gen­er­ously dust a work sur­face and rolling pin with flour. Turn the dough out onto the sur­face and dust it gen­er­ously with more flour. Use your hands to pat the dough into an even rec­tan­gle, then roll it out into a ⅓-inchthick sheet, about 20 x 25 inches. Brush the dough with the con­densed milk, then sprin­kle the spice mix­ture over it, fol­lowed by the dried fruit, spread­ing the fill­ings evenly over the dough all the way to the edges. Di­vide the dough into 5 long strips, and roll each length­wise into a fat snake, about 1½ inches wide, pinch­ing the seams shut. Press one end of all 5 strands to­gether, with the op­po­site ends fan­ning out to­ward you, with 3 strands to the right and 2 strands to the left. Bring the strand far­thest to the right over the cen­ter 3 strands so it falls be­tween the 2 strands on the left. (You will now have 2 strands on the left and 2 on the right.) Next, bring the strand far­thest to the left over the other 2 strands on the left so it lands in the cen­ter of the other 4 strands. Stretch­ing the dough as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, con­tinue braid­ing the strands in this man­ner un­til you have a fat, braided loaf. Press the ends to­gether, then wrap the loaf into a wreath shape, press­ing the 2 ends of the braid to­gether. Care­fully lift the braid into the pan (you might need a sec­ond set of hands for this) and gen­tly ad­just the dough so it keeps its wreath shape, stretch­ing as needed to even out the braid and tuck­ing in the ends. Cover the cake with a dry towel and let rise at room tem­per­a­ture un­til the dough is slightly puffed, about 45 min­utes.

6 Pre­heat the oven to 425°F. When the cake has risen, care­fully brush it all over with the egg wash. Transfer to the oven and bake un­til dark am­ber-brown, 25–30 min­utes. Lower the oven to 325°F, and con­tinue bak­ing un­til the in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture reg­is­ters 190°–195°F, 20–25 min­utes more.

7 Re­move the cake from the oven and let cool slightly. Dust with pow­dered su­gar, and serve warm or at room tem­per­a­ture.

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