This braided loaf makes a stunning presentation and is easier to make than you might think. It’s based on the traditional cardamom-spiked breads from Sweden and Finland, with luscious dried figs added for some sparkle.
Figgy Cardamom Bread
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml.) whole milk, warmed (110 degrees F/43 degrees C)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g.) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 oz./545 g.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
3 large eggs
6 Tbs. (3 oz./90 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups (9 oz./280 g.) quartered dried figs
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, yeast and 1/3 cup sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cardamom. Add the dry ingredients and 2 of the eggs to the yeast mixture. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed until it starts to look shaggy. While continuing to knead, add the butter. Knead until the dough is fairly smooth, about 10 minutes. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and flatten into a disk. Scatter the figs over the dough and gather it into a ball. Knead the dough gently to incorporate the figs. Gather the dough into a ball, transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dump the dough onto the lightly floured work surface and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 16 inches (40 cm.) long. Lay the ropes next to each other, touching, on the work surface. Braid the ropes together, tucking the ends underneath the braid. Place on the prepared pan, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a little water. Brush the dough gently with the egg wash, then sprinkle generously with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Makes 1 large loaf.