This beautiful dessert bread is perfect for holiday celebrations, special occasions, or anytime you want to fill your house with the sweet smell of cinnamon and caramel baking in the oven. Allow 30 minutes for the dough to rise — and all year for your family to talk about this memorable dessert.
- To make the dough, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the active dry yeast and warm water until dissolved.
- Add 1 cup milk, sugar, butter, salt, and 2 eggs to the yeast mixture. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat the ingredients together. Slowly stream in the flour and continue to mix until a smooth, tacky dough forms, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- To make the caramel filling, in a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, pinch of salt, and pecans (if using) until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir the dough to deflate it, about 25 strokes. Dust a flat work surface with flour and turn the dough onto it. Roll or pat the dough into an 8x12-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough crosswise into 3 8x4-inch strips.
- Divide the caramel filling into thirds and spread it down the center of each strip. Pinch the sides and ends of each strip together to seal, and then roll them into ropes about 1-foot long.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the ropes diagonally on the baking sheet and braid them together gently and loosely, without stretching the dough. Pinch the ends together to fasten and tuck them under the loaf to secure them.
- Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise until 1 ½ times in size, about 30 minutes.
- Place an oven rack below the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon milk and 1 egg. Brush the loaf with the egg wash. Bake the loaf until the braid is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.
- To make the brown butter glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter foam and cook, stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn it, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer the butter to a medium bowl and immediately stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.
Recipe courtesy of Dinner Bell Co-op member Cheryl Schelling (Orange City, IA)