It all started with a bag of Mandarin oranges. When my wife and boys recently went out of town for a week, I found a bag of Mandarins in the fridge. Knowing that I probably wouldn’t eat a whole bag of them before my family returned, I looked around for a recipe calling for oranges. I found one in my Mom’s cookbook, The Bread Book – Orange Wreath with Orange Butter.
My Mom’s recipe states, “The orange butter, while not absolutely necessary, adds bittersweet flavor and an attractive touch when served in a bowl in the center of the wreath.” With apologies to my Mom, this is wrong on two counts: the orange butter is in fact utterly necessary. It is so yummy, the recipe might rightly be called “Orange Butter and Some Bread on Which to Put It.” Also, because I used Mandarin oranges, the butter is gently sweet, not at all bittersweet.
Mandarin Orange Wreath Bread
A variation on my Mom's Orange Wreath with Orange Butter recipe (from The Bread Book). This wreath is impressive to look at and delightful to eat - you'll get oohs and aahs, as well as mmms...
For the dough
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup boiling water
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons grated orange peel
- 1 scant tablespoon (or 1 ¼-ounce package) active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 cup warm orange juice (about 110 degrees)
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4½-5½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the orange butter
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon reserved sugared orange peel
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- ¼ cup reserved orange syrup
For the dough
This recipe is based on my Mom's "Orange Wreath with Orange Butter." You can make it with regular oranges or Mandarin oranges. The only change I made to the original was to substitute shortening with butter...
Combine the granulated sugar with the boiling water, ½ cup orange juice, and the orange peel in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by half and thickened. Strain, reserving the orange syrup and the sugared orange peel separately. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, soften the yeas in the water.
Add 2 tablespoons of the sugared orange peel, the warm orange juice, butter, eggs, salt, and 2 cups of the flour to the yeast. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
Gradually add more of the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead, adding more flour, a little at a time as necessary, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth elastic dough and blisters begin to develop on the surface.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Cut or break off ¼ of the dough; set aside and cover with a towel. Divide the remaining dough in half and with your hands roll each piece into a 30-inch rope. Loosely twist the two ropes together (diagram 1 - see below) and join the ends to form a circle. The top rope should connect with the bottom rope from the opposite side (diagram 2). Put the circle on a well-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel.
Divide the reserved dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a pencil-thin rope about 28 inches long (diagram 3). Loosely twist two of the ropes together. Repeat with the remaining two ropes. Loosely wrapped a small twist around of the large twist, gently lifting portions of the large wreath so that it is encircled -- lay the small twist in the creases (diagram 4) and tuck the end underneath. Continue with the second small twist so that the wreath is wrapped all the way around.
Butter the outside of a 5-inch ovenproof bowl and put it in the center of the wreath. Gently push the wreath so that the bowl fits snugly in the middle. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Take care not to let the dough rise for too long or the larger twist will break the smaller ones.
About 15 minutes before the end of the rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the wreath for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown (the internal temperature should reach 190 degrees). Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a rack. remove the bowl from the center of the wreath.
For the orange butter
To make the orange butter, cut the butter up into tablespoon-size pieces. Combine all the ingredients for the orange butter and beat until light and fluffy. Brush some of the butter over the warm wreath. Let cool for 5 minutes and brush again. Put the remaining orange butter in the same mold used to form the wreath. Just before serving, return it to its niche in the center of the wreath, this time setting the bread on a buffet table. (I love that last part about the "buffet table"... it's from my Mom's original recipe.)