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Christmas Star Bread shines for holiday parties

This Christmas Star Bread is a flexible recipe that will make a great addition to holiday meals.  (Kimberly Lusk/The Spokesman-Review)

For years I’ve looked at pictures of gorgeous star-, wreath- or tree-shaped holiday breads and pastries, knowing that they looked far more complicated than they really were. But, I never bothered to make one.

Then, over the weekend, I needed something to bring to my knitting group’s holiday party. It needed to be something that I could serve at room temperature – and manage to make around my daughter’s piano recital the same day.

Google brought me back to the pretty pictures, and I picked the Cranberry Orange Star Bread from Delish.com. I threw together the dough and made a quick run to the grocery store for cranberries – the only ingredient we didn’t have at home.

Unfortunately, there were no fresh or frozen cranberries to be had at my usual store, and I didn’t have time for another stop. So, I decided the lingonberry jam in the fridge would have to do.

The jam ended up being an excellent substitute. In the future, I could imagine using different flavors of jam, cinnamon and raisins, or even Nutella. A savory version with pesto and perhaps sundried tomatoes and goat cheese would be excellent, too.

The bread was a hit at the party – and it’ll be making more appearances on our holiday table. It may even replace the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.

Christmas Star Bread

Adapted from Delish.com

¾ cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees

3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 (2¼ teaspoons) packet active dry yeast

2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

9 tablespoons jam or other filling (see note)

Egg wash (1 large egg, 1 tablespoon cold water)

Confectioners’ sugar

In a small heatproof bowl, stir milk and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, using your fingers, rub orange zest and remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar until combined. Add flour and salt and stir with a flexible spatula to combine. Add egg, butter and yeast mixture and stir with spatula until combined and a soft, sticky dough forms. Attach bowl to stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and beat on high speed until dough is stretchy, sticky and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer dough to a large bowl greased with cooking spray. Cover and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four pieces.

Roll one piece to a 10-inch round and arrange in center of prepared sheet. Spread 3 tablespoons filling over dough round, spreading to edges. Roll out second dough piece to a 10-inch round and place on top of first round; spread with 3 more tablespoons of filling. Repeat with third piece of dough and 3 more tablespoons of filling, then roll out final dough piece and place on top.

Place a 2½-inch bowl or glass upside down in center of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut a straight line from rim of bowl toward perimeter of circle, making sure to slice through all layers. Rotate baking sheet 180 degrees and make an identical cut on opposite side of dough circle. Make seven more equidistant cuts on each side of the circle so there are 16 equal strips extending from rim of bowl, like the rays of the sun.

Pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice, exposing strips of filling in a spiral pattern. Press edges of strips together to seal. Repeat with remaining strips, forming a total of eight star points. Remove bowl guide and lightly cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise at room temperature until puffed, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, beat egg and water. Brush dough with egg wash.

Bake bread until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from baking sheet. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 8 servings

Note: To make the original recipe’s cranberry filling, combine 8 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup fresh orange juice, 2 tablespoons cold water and ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt in a small pot.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring and mashing occasionally to break up most of the cranberries, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. (There should still be some cranberry chunks.) Let cool to room temperature before using.

Filling can be made a day ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.