Last Sunday, I woke up to the kind of solid flannel-grey sky that can only mean one thing in this part of the world – snow’s a-comin’. Sure enough, little flurries started blowing past the bedroom window shortly after, making it awfully tempting to spend the rest of the day huddled in bed. I resisted the temptation, though, and bounded out of bed and down the stairs because I knew there was something far more tempting waiting downstairs in the kitchen for me.
That something was this Pumpkin-Cranberry Coffee Wreath, my Challenge #8 entry for Project Food Blog. She’s a beaut, isn’t she?
The task for this challenge was relatively simple, especially compared to some of the recent ones. We were asked to create a baked good – whether it be bread, cake, pastries, pie, tart, quiche, cookies, crackers or anything else related to the above. The only requirement is that said baked good had to be made with a seasonal ingredient… namely, pumpkin.
Even though we had the option to take the savoury route, I decided to make something sweet, because this time of year seems to be all about desserts anyways. And since the stakes are seriously high this time around (with 12 out of 24 bloggers being eliminated this round), I also wanted my dessert to be a real showstopper… gorgeous enough to serve at a fancy party, but still simple enough to fit into even the craziest holiday schedules.
I immediately ruled out pie, because as far as I’m concerned, pumpkin pie’s sole purpose is to act as a delivery mechanism for whipped cream. Cake was also out, because cakes tend to require multiple components and entirely too much effort to be truly impressive (not to mention that I couldn’t make a proper buttercream if my life depended on it). And since I’ve yet to meet a pumpkin cookie I like and Starbucks has turned pumpkin scones into a year-round staple, neither one of those appealed all that much either.
Enter the Pumpkin-Cranberry Coffee Wreath. It’s gorgeous, and better yet, it’s not nearly as hard to make as it looks. Anyone who’s made cinnamon buns should have absolutely no trouble whipping up this dessert, so long as they have a pair of kitchen shears and a little extra patience.
The technique is borrowed from a traditional yeast-leavened coffee cake I found in one of my vintage 1960s cookbooks, but I’ve adapted it to use a slightly-less-traditional buttery yellow-orange pumpkin dough. Pillowy-soft and tender, almost like challah or brioche, the dough has only just the slightest hint of pumpkin flavour despite the three-quarter cups of pumpkin puree used to make it. The filling is a sweet cinnamon-butter swirl dotted with tart cranberries and crunchy almonds, which makes this cake so downright addictive that it might even convince a few pumpkin-haters to change their tune.
The recipe makes two wreaths, which is a good thing, because The Boy and I gobbled down the first wreath in less than a day. The second wreath came to work with me, where my coworkers were more than happy to take it off my hands. (Hey, annual reviews are around the corner… it pays to keep the boss happy!)
It’s perfect for lots of occasions besides bribing coworkers, though – try it with a big mug of coffee or tea as an afternoon snack, make it the piece-de-resistance for a fancy holiday brunch, or set it out on the dessert table with platters of cookies and cakes for a big Christmakwanzakah celebration. Heck, just make it because it’s cold and blustery outside, and you want to make the house smell delicious. Any excuse will do, really.
Ready to give it a whirl? Here’s how you can assemble a wreath of your very own:
1. After the first rise is done, split the dough in half. Roll out the first half into a 10×12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured work surface.
2. Spread the dough with a layer of the cinnamon-butter mixture. Lick the rest off the spoon when you’re done. It’s okay… I won’t tell.
3. Sprinkle with cranberries.
4. Sprinkle with almonds.
5. Roll up the dough like a jelly-roll, starting from one of the longer sides.
6. Wrap around to form a ring and pinch the ends together to seal shut. Transfer to a baking sheet.
7. Snip slices partway through the ring at 3/4-inch intervals. A knife will do the trick in a pinch, but kitchen shears will get the best results.
8. This is where the magic happens… Twist each slice to expose the cut side, overlapping the slices slightly as you go.
10. Here’s the finished product, ready for the second rise. Pretty, no? Repeat the previous steps using the other half of the dough to assemble your second wreath.
NOTE: This post was created for Challenge #8 of Project Food Blog. Voting opens November 29th, 2010 and will run through to 6pm PST on December 2nd, 2010. If you like my entry, I’d really really really appreciate your support!
Please vote by clicking on the “Vote For Me” button on the official contestant badge on the right-hand side of the page – you’ll be taken to the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog site, where you can log in and register your vote. If you’re already logged into your Foodbuzz profile, you can also vote directly on the Foodbuzz version of this page.
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup warm water (~110°F)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
To prepare the dough, dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl, then set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes or until foamy (if the mixture doesn’t foam after 10 minutes, your yeast is probably done for – toss it out and start again with a fresh packet).
In a large bowl, stir together 3 cups flour, pumpkin, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and nutmeg until combined. Add yeast mixture and continue stirring until the dough is evenly mixed and starts to come together into a ball.
Turn out onto a liberally floured work surface and knead, dusting with the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed to keep from sticking, until the dough is soft and elastic. The dough is ready when it still feels slightly tacky, but doesn’t stick to your hands.
Place the dough in a large lightly-oiled bowl, turning to coat top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise in a warm draft-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Once the dough is risen, punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured board. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the softened butter with brown sugar and cinnamon.
Divide the dough into two parts.
Roll out the first piece into a 10×12-inch rectangle. Spoon out half the filling onto the dough, and spread into a thin even layer, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges uncovered. Sprinkle with half of the cranberries and almonds.
Starting from one of the longer sides, roll up the rectangle jelly-roll style, pinching together the seam to seal tightly. Turn the roll over so that the seam is on the bottom, then bring the ends together to shape into a ring and pinch together to seal.
Transfer the wreath to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use kitchen shears to cut 2/3 of the way through each of the rings at 3/4-inch intervals. Gently twist each slice to expose the cut side, partially overlapping each slice onto the next.
Repeat this process with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling ingredients.
(Recipe can be made in advance up to this point – cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove from the fridge and continue on with the recipe, allowing at least an hour for the second rise time since the dough will be cold.)
Cover the baking sheets with a clean dishtowel and set aside to rise again for another 45 minutes, or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 375F. Brush the top of each ring with beaten egg, then sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the rings are cooled, make the icing by whisking together icing sugar, milk and almond extract until smooth (if the icing is too thick to drizzle, whisk in more milk, a 1/4 tsp at a time, until you get the right consistency). Drizzle onto the rings. Let icing set up for 10-15 minutes before serving.