On special occasions when I was growing up, my mom would make blueberry pancakes with orange butter for breakfast. It was always one of my favorites — fat, juicy berries baked into the batter and topped with a sweet mélange of butter, orange juice and powdered sugar melting down the sides of a tall stack.
Those are the flavors I was seeking to recreate here in my blueberry-orange cardamom krantz. What is a krantz, you ask? Well, it’s similar to a babka, but since babkas have enjoyed so much popularity in the past few years, I was afraid mine wouldn’t measure up to the intricate, decadent loaves one finds when searching “babka” on Pinterest. Besides, I thought, why not give a little publicity to its lesser-known cousin, the krantz?
It’s hard to find much information about the history of krantz bread, but according to this article, it has its roots in Germany, where it is called hefekranz or simply kranz, but it has recently become popular in Israel, as well. A kranz — which means wreath in German — is typically a braided loaf baked in a wreath shape, whereas babka is more often baked in a loaf pan.
The brief for this signature challenge was to make a sweet fruit loaf with enriched dough, and it had to be freeform, not baked in a pan. Enriched dough is generally sweeter than lean dough, and it contains fat, usually in the form of butter, eggs and milk. Fat tends to retard the yeast, so enriched dough requires longer proofing times. This made things difficult for the bakers in the Great White Tent, because they were only given 2½ hours to complete the challenge. Even Paul Hollywood, in the Masterclass episode of this bake, allowed his dough to rise twice for an hour-and-a-half each time!
For my sweet loaf, I adapted this recipe, which calls for proofing the dough for 30 minutes each time, but I ended up extending the first proof to an hour because it hadn’t quite doubled in size at the half-hour mark. This recipe uses the improved mixing method, in which all the ingredients are combined at once, then kneaded with an electric mixer for an extended period of time (5-10 minutes) to help form long gluten chains. When the gluten has fully developed, the dough will pass the windowpane test, meaning that a piece of dough can be stretched so thin you can see light through it. Then you know the dough is elastic enough to be shaped and you’ll end up with a tight crumb structure and a soft, slightly chewy crust.
While waiting for my dough to rise, I made the filling, which I adapted from this recipe. Like my mother’s blueberry pancakes with orange butter, it combines the yummy flavors of orange and blueberry with butter and sugar. Unlike my mother’s recipe, though, both the dough and the filling have a hint of cardamom, which complements the sweetness and leaves a spicy warmth on the palate.
After the dough had risen the first time, I rolled it out into a large rectangle and spread it with a thin layer of the orange filling topped with blueberries I had cut in half and laid, cut side down, onto a paper towel to absorb any excess juices. I then rolled the rectangle into a log and cut the log in half vertically, creating two long pieces of dough with exposed stripes of orange-blueberry filling. I trimmed the ends and transferred the two long pieces to a parchment-lined baking sheet, where I twisted them into a braid and brought the two ends together to form a wreath.
Once the wreath had risen for 30 minutes, I knew I no longer had a wreath. It grew so much the hole in the middle had disappeared, and my kranz/crown had become more of a giant knot! After baking for 45 minutes, it was a beautiful golden brown with dark blue berries peeking out from the twists and turns of the knotted loaf. While it was still warm, I brushed it with melted orange marmalade, then let it cool before drizzling a glaze made of mascarpone, orange juice and powdered sugar over the massive bread-knot.
I could hardly wait to cut into it! (Luckily, I had baked the trimmed ends separately, so my daughter and I dug into those while waiting for the larger loaf to cool.) One bite and I was transported back to my mother’s kitchen, with a mouthful of those blue-and-purple-streaked pancakes dripping with melted orange butter. Only this time, those flavors were captured in a beautiful enriched bread streaked through with orange swirls and studded with deep-purple gem-colored blueberries.
Blueberry-Orange Cardamom Krantz
Filling and glaze recipes adapted from TheVanillaBeanBlog.com
For the dough:
For the filling:
- 1 pint (12 oz.) fresh blueberries, divided
- 1/3 c. sugar
- ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Zest from 1 orange (about 2 T.)
- ½ t. ground cardamom
- 1/8 t. kosher salt
For the glaze:
- 3 T. orange marmalade
- ¼ c. (2 oz.) mascarpone
- 1 T. fresh orange juice
- ½ c. powdered sugar
- To make the dough: In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the melted butter, milk and yeast. Add 3 cups of flour, ½ cup sugar, the egg, salt, cardamom and orange zest, and mix on low until combined. Gradually add the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time, continuing to mix on low speed. When the flour is all mixed in, raise mixer speed to medium and continue mixing for 5 more minutes.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for another 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and passes the windowpane test.* Lightly oil the bowl used to mix the dough, and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it once to coat it with oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes until the dough has almost doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling: Rinse the berries and set aside 12 whole berries for decorating the loaf. Cut the rest of them in half, placing them cut-side down on paper towels to absorb excess liquid. Place the rest of the filling ingredients in a small bowl and mix together until combined.
- When the dough has doubled in size, flip it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Push the air out and knead it a little to reshape it into a ball. Roll it into a large rectangle, about 18 inches by 14 inches. Spread the orange filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the halved blueberries in a single layer over the orange filling and press lightly into the dough.
- Starting from the long side closest to you, roll the dough tightly into a log shape. Press to seal the seam closed, and trim 1 inch off each end. (If the log is thicker in the middle, gently tug it out so the thickness is even throughout, maintaining a 16-inch length.)
- With the seam side down, cut the log lengthwise into two halves. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and transfer the two halves onto the prepared pan. Twist the two halves together into one long, tight braid. Then bring the ends together to create a wreath shape. Pinch the ends together. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake on center rack for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and internal temperature registers 190°F. (Rotate baking sheet halfway through bake time and cover bread loosely with foil to maintain even browning, if necessary.)
- Remove bread from the oven and slide with the parchment onto a cooling rack. Warm the orange marmalade in the microwave and brush it over the top of the warm loaf.
- While the bread cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the mascarpone and orange juice together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. (Add an additional squeeze of orange juice, if needed.) Drizzle glaze over the cooled bread and sprinkle with reserved blueberries.
*Take a piece of dough and stretch it thin enough that you can see light through it. If you can do that without tearing it, the dough has passed the windowpane test and is ready for the first rise. Read more about it here: https://www.thekitchn.com/bakers-techniques-how-to-do-th-70784.