Coffee Cake Crown
As the sun rises on December 13, Scandinavians honor Saint Lucia, the patroness of light, at an early-morning feast of cake or buns flavored with saffron, which imparts a golden hue.
- 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a pinch for yeast
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Canola oil, for bowl and plastic wrap
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and a pinch of granulated sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 3/4 cup milk in a small saucepan until just steaming. Remove pan from heat. Add saffron; cover, and let steep 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together saffron-milk mixture, butter, eggs, remaining sugar, and salt. Add to yeast mixture. Using the dough-hook attachment, beat until combined, about 1 minute. With mixer on low speed, add flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from side of bowl but is still slightly sticky (you may not need the fifth cup of flour). Add raisins, cherries, and zest. Mix until elastic and smooth, 7 to 8 minutes.
Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, and loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight (let dough come to room temperature before proceeding).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in center. Punch down dough; divide into three equal pieces. Gently roll each into a rope, 18 to 20 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches thick. On a lightly floured work surface, lay ropes vertically in front of you. Working toward yourself, braid ropes; form into a circle, and pinch ends together to seal. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; loosely cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap; let rise 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and heavy cream. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake 15 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.
When ready to serve, make icing: In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons milk until smooth; drizzle over cake.