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Fruit Braid

This recipe is made with dried fruit filling. I got the original recipe from an old issue of "Taste of Home" and it said to use dried apricots. But I didn't have any apricots, and I did have a bulk-sized bag of cranberries, so I made it with cranberry filling instead. It was amazing! I took it to a church ladies function and got lots of compliments on it.
this was the photo from the magazine
this was mine...not quite a pretty, but still awesome!

Preparation time--the actual work is about 20 minutes, but the rise times will add another hour plus, and the cook time is 20-25 minutes.
Yield: 3 braids

1 c water
1/2 c butter
3/4 c sugar
5 1/2 or 6 c flour (I used about 1 1/2 c wheat, and needed the lesser amount of flour)
3 packages dry yeast (1 package = 2 1/4 tsp, so that's 6 3/4 tsp needed)
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten

In a mixing bowl, blend the sugar, yeast, salt, and 3 c flour. Set aside. Put the butter and water in a saucepan and heat just until the butter melts (120-130*). (Be sure it doesn't get too hot or you'll kill the yeast!) Add butter mixture to flour mixture and beat just until moistened. Add eggs, beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 30-40 min (Mine took much longer than that, partly because I have a cold Alaskan kitchen, and partly because I think I killed part of the yeast by having my water/butter a little too hot.)
While it rises, make the filling. 

2 1/4 c chopped dried fruit (craisins don’t need to be chopped since they’re already small)
1/2 c water
(for the cranberries I also added about 1/2tsp of almond extract and 1/2tsp of orange extract)
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
Put the dried fruit and water in a saucepan (and the extracts if you're doing those). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until water is absorbed and fruit is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add brown sugar. Cover and process till smooth. (My food processor is a little one and would't fit everything, so I just put in the fruit, processed that, then dumped it back into the pan and mixed in the sugar with a fork.) Set aside.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide into thirds.  On greased baking sheets, roll out each portion into a 12in x 8in rectangle (I rolled a little, but mostly just mooshed it out with my fingers, it was easier because the sides of the pan kept getting in the way of my rolling pin handles!) Spread filling down the center of each rectangle. On each long side, cut 1 inch wide strips about 2 inches into the center. (I actually did the cutting first and put on the filling afterwards, it seemed less messy.) Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling. Pinch ends to seal. (Rather than pinching the ends, I just folded the two end strips straight up inside the loaves on both ends, and then did the alternating down the sides.) Cover and let rise for 30 min.
Bake at 375* for 20-25minutes or until golden brown. Remove pans to wire racks to cool. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over braids.

1 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 Tbs milk
1/2 tsp vanilla (a little orange or almond would be good here too, though I didn't do it)

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