Artisan Bread: Russian Braid

Russian BraidWhat’s the legacy you want to leave behind? How do you want your children to see you? (I know… this is really deep for a Monday.) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, buy with Christmas approaching and the dreaded New Year’s resolutions following closely behind.

My favorite part of Christmas is the time I get to spend with my mom, making batch after batch of my grandmother’s famous sugar cookies. Mom does the rolling and cutting and I am in charge of decorating and taste-testing each batch of dough (you know that’s the most crucial part of making cookies). Each cookie is adorned with beautiful sparkling sugar and cinnamon candies. Some are Christmas trees, some are stars, some are reindeer.  Each tray is baked for precisely 11 minutes to ensure a soft, golden cookie every time. They’re perfect. That moment is perfect.

My mom and I have made these cookies ever since I could stand on my own two feet. It is a sacred tradition that I will pass down to my children someday. This is something I will always remember my mother by.

So, what will be my legacy (or legacies)? What will be yours?

One thing that I will share with my future family is making a Russian Braid on Christmas morning. (You didn’t really think I was going to give away my grandmother’s top-secret sugar cookie recipe, did you?)  It is so much fun, incredibly simple and something the kids can take part in. It is utterly perfect…


Artisan Bread: Russian Braid

Sweet dough:

1 cup milk, heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit

½ cup sugar

1 ½ Tablespoons yeast

½ cup room temperature butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

½ teaspoon salt

4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour


Cinnamon or cocoa powder


¼ cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm (NOT HOT) milk, and then add the sugar. Add butter, eggs, lemon zest and salt; mix with paddle attachment until combined. Add the flour and mix at medium speed until a soft dough forms.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough in mixing bowl until the dough is soft and supple. Briefly knead by hand to create a ball and transfer to a sprayed bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down by pulling it sideways and folding into thirds, and then turning and repeating once more. Refrigerate the dough at least one hour or overnight.

Prepare two loaf pans by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper, leaving overhang on each end.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling. Divide the dough in half and lightly dust your work surface. Roll one half of the dough into roughly a 12” by 17” rectangle. Brush with cream and heavily dust with cinnamon (or cocoa) mixture. Roll the rectangle long-ways into a log and pinch the seam closed. Loosely wrap the log in plastic wrap and place on cookie sheet in the freezer for 15-20minutes (easier for cutting). Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.

Cut each log in half lengthwise, exposing the interior layers. Take the two ends and form a loose twist, making sure not to twist too tightly. Your twist will be longer than your loaf pan, so don’t worry! Fit each twist into a loaf pan, cut side up, and let rise until doubled in size. (The more scrunched the twist is, the more interesting the loaf looks like.)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from pan immediately.


  1. I hear you! I think family recipes are the richest legacy of all. It says so much about who we are and were we came from.

    My favorite Christmas cookie of all time is also one handed down by my grandmother from the ‘old country’ – Walnut bars. Here is the simple recipe:

    1 1/2 pounds finely grated walnuts, about six cups (a nut grinder works best)
    2 cups icing sugar
    1 whole egg
    rind from one lemon grated

    Knead nuts, sugar, eggs, lemon rind until it forms at dough. Roll out into a large rectangle about 1 /4” thick. Place on a cookie sheet lightly greased or sprayed with PAM.

    2 egg whites
    2 cups icing sugar
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    Beat egg whites with sugar and lemon juice until it forms soft peaks.

    Spread on nut dough; dust cookie sheet with flour. Cut into strips. Bake at 200 degrees for one hour or until topping is dried.

    Love your food ideas!

    Carolyn Winter

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your recipe, Carolyn! That sounds amazing, and I’ll definitely be trying your Walnut Bars recipe for my family this holiday season. Thanks again, and happy holidays!

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