This variation on a traditional swirl bread has braided layers of cardamom, vanilla and sugar to sweeten it.

If you've never had bread flavored with cardamom, you're in for a real treat! I love to substitute cardamom for recipes that call for cinnamon. I find the subtle flavor much more to my liking. 

For this recipe, I started with a traditional, basic cinnamon raisin swirl bread recipe and subbed in cardamom for the cinnamon, added some vanilla bean paste, and ditched the raisins.

Then just for fun, I decided to braid the dough before the final rise in the loaf pan. The result was a subliminally flavored sweet bread that was pretty as well as delicious.

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Cardamon Vanilla Swirl Braided Bread

For the dough

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, about 105°F-115°F
2 tablespoons neutral oil
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cardamom

For the topping

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment, mix half of the flour, the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, salt, and yeast on low speed. Add warm water, oil, egg, and vanilla and mix until smooth. 

Add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough for 9 or 10 minutes, or until smooth and glossy (the dough will be sticky). 

Place dough into a large greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a small bowl using a fork, mix the butter, sugar and cardamom for the filling.

When the dough has doubled in size, divide into 3 equal portions and roll each out to a 12x6-inch rectangle on a floured surface.  Divide the filling between the three rectangles, then starting at one long side, roll each rectangle into a rope. 

Lay the three ropes side by side, with the seam sides down, and starting in the middle braid to one end, then go back to the middle and braid the other half to the end. Tuck the ends under and place the braid in the loaf pan. Cover and let rise for another hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

When the bread is done rising, brush with one tablespoon of the melted butter and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped with your fingers.  Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Let cool slightly on a wire rack, then slice and serve warm or at room temperature.


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