In Sift magazine we like to feature special-occasion sweet breads, with shaping techniques that make the breads look as good as they taste. For the Holiday 2018 issue, we transformed a luscious almond-filled coffeecake into a festive wreath.
If you've wanted to know about how to shape a coffeecake wreath, today's your day. We'll show you how it's done, using our classic Swedish Almond Coffeecake recipe. But really, this technique will work with any filled sweet roll recipe.
1. Make the dough
First, let's gather the dough ingredients:
2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (362g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Put the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Heat the milk to a simmer, then pour it into the bowl; let everything sit for a few minutes so the hot milk melts the butter and starts to dissolve the sugar.
Let the mixture cool to lukewarm, then add the yeast, egg, and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes, until it's smooth and silky. Cover the dough and let it rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The dough is ready to work with when you give it a poke and the indentation stays instead of bouncing back.
2. Make the filling
Collect the following ingredients:
1 large egg white (save the yolk)
1/3 cup (66g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (120g) toasted almond flour
4 teaspoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (14g) melted unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons milk
Mix all of these ingredients together to make a paste that's about the consistency of peanut butter, adjusting the amount of milk as necessary.
3. Roll out and fill the dough
Roll the dough out to a rectangle 24" wide and 10" tall. You don't need a carpenter's square for the corners; it's OK if they're a little rounded.
Using your trusty offset spatula, spread the filling over the dough, leaving 1" on each long side uncovered.
Roll up the dough without pulling it or leaving the log too loose.
Pinch the dough together to seal the seam. Turn the log over, seam side down.
Shape the dough into a circle on a piece of parchment (critical to do now, before you start making the final shape), and tuck one end of the log inside the other, again pinching the dough together to seal it.
4. How to shape a coffeecake wreath
Using a bench knife or pair of scissors, cut the dough about 3/4 of the way through the log, from the outside toward the center. Go all the way around the ring.
Now for the magic. Grasp one of the slices and pull it toward the center of the dough ring, turning it on its side as you go. Pull the next slice toward the outside. Keep alternating the slices, one to the inside, one to the outside, until you've gone all the way around the ring.
5. Baker's hint: Spin the parchment
As you go around the ring, simply turn the sheet of parchment with the dough on it to put it in a more convenient position to work with. This is a simple thing, but it makes the process much easier and less stressful. Don't worry about making the shape look perfect. Once your wreath is formed, slide the whole thing, parchment and all, onto a baking sheet.
6. Let the wreath rise
Cover the dough and let it rise until puffy. (I used another baking sheet inverted over the first as a cover.) This should take about 45 minutes.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the reserved egg yolk with a tablespoon of water, and brush this egg wash over the risen dough.
Bake the coffeecake for 24 to 26 minutes, until it's golden brown and the center reads 190°F when measured with a digital thermometer.
6. The big finish
Once the coffeecake has cooled, it's time to dress it up. Give it a shower of confectioners' sugar. And because more is better, give it a drizzle of flavorful glaze, too.
Simply drizzle the glaze back and forth over the coffeecake, and you've done it!
This technique for how to shape a coffeecake wreath can be used for any filled sweet roll recipe. We used it for Orange Sunshine Coffeecake a while back; you could use it with our Chocolate Babka recipe, too.
We hope you'll try this technique the next time you have company coming and an urge to make something special. If you have a recipe you love that you think would be great in this shape, please let us know in the comments below. And for other festive showstoppers, check out the Holiday 2018 issue of Sift magazine.
Many thanks to Anne Mientka for taking the photographs in this post.