Cardamom turns up a fair bit in Scandinavian cuisine, and it runs through this beautiful, braided bread like a subtle perfume. Enjoy warm with butter and honey.
1 1/3 cups whole milk, lukewarm
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tbsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp dry active yeast
3 free-run eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
5 tbsp room-temperature butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For tops of the loaves
1 tbsp 35 per cent or whipping cream
1 free-run egg
1 tsp ground cardamom
4 tsp sugar, divided in half between both loaves
1/4 cup sliced almonds, divided between both loaves
1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger, divided between both loaves (optional)
Into the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle, add the warm milk, sugar, cardamom, and yeast; mix well, then allow to activate. Leave it be for about 10 minutes or until it’s nice and yeasty and foamy.
Add eggs and blend well.
Using a dough hook, with the mixer on low, start adding 6 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Add salt; mix until a dough forms. If too gummy, add the rest of the flour a few spoonfuls at a time.
Increase speed to medium, knead the dough for about 2 minutes. Add the butter a couple of cubes at a time, making sure it’s well mixed in before adding the next few cubes. Once all the butter has been added, knead in the machine for about 4 minutes.
Lightly butter a large bowl, and transfer the dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean, damp, tea towel. Pop it somewhere warm and draft-free for about one hour; it should double in size. Punch it down, re-cover, and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) and line two baking pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Lightly flour counter and turn dough out. Cut it into two equal pieces, then divide each again into three equal balls.
Using floured hands, roll each ball into a rope about 16-inches long. Lay three ropes side by side and, starting at the top, braid into a loaf. Tuck the ends under and pinch. Transfer braid to the prepared sheet pan. Do the same for the second loaf. Cover loaves with plastic wrap or a clean, damp tea towel, and set aside in a warm spot to rise one more time for about 20 minutes or so.
While the loaves rise, in a small bowl, whisk together cream, egg and cardamom. Brush the mixture overtop the loaves, then sprinkle both with sugar, almonds and candied ginger.
Bake one loaf at a time, until golden, about 25 minutes. When done, transfer to a rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.