From Lianne Hilbert (recipe by Amanda Hesser on Food52)

I’ve always loved baking for the holidays. We usually make gingerbread, thumbprint cookies, cutout sugar cookies, peanut brittle, and more. In case that weren’t enough, we also pick up lebkuchen and springerle from the Dexter Bakery every year 😊 About 5 years ago I found this recipe for a Cherry Almond Danish and we loved it so much that it’s been firmly instituted in our holiday baking tradition ever since. I hope you enjoy it too!

Basic Yeast Dough

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115° F.)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 to 5 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Cherry-Almond Filling

  • 2/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup rum (or other dark spirit)
  • 2 egg whites
  • one 7-ounce tube almond paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sliced, blanched almonds
  • Sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

Basic Yeast Dough

 The day before baking the twist: pour the milk in a small saucepan and place the pan over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form around the edges and the milk steams, remove it from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm. Measure ¼ cup lukewarm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large mixing bowl; sprinkle in the yeast; stir to dissolve.

  1. Add the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup flour, and blend. Mix in the butter. Beat in 2 cups of flour until the mixture is smooth. Add enough remaining flour to make a very soft dough. Knead in the mixer with the dough hook, or turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead 3 to 4 minutes to until dough is soft and velvety and little blisters appear just under the surface. Put into large well-greased bowl; turn dough over to bring greased side up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day: punch the dough down (it will be quite stiff from chilling); let rise again, this time at room temperature, 60 to 90 minutes or until almost doubled. Meanwhile, proceed with the instructions for the filling.

Basic Yeast Dough

  1. While the dough rises, prepare the cherry almond filling: put the cherries, rum, and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the egg whites until foamy, crumble in the almond paste. Pulse until all the lumps are blended in. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and the butter. Set aside.

Assembling the Twist Loaves (Note: I prefer making two smaller loaves)

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into 2 equal pieces (4 pieces if you’re making 2 twists). Roll each piece out to a 6×15-inch rectangle. Spread each rectangle with half the almond-paste mixture; dot each with half the cherries (drained of the cooking syrup). Only use 1/4 ingredients on each rectangle if making two twist loaves.
  2. Roll each piece up from the long side, jelly-roll fashion. Pinch the edges well to seal the seam to help keep the filling inside the dough. Put the two filled rolls side by side, seams down; twist one roll over the other forming a fat rope shape. Pinch the ends of the twist to seal, and tuck under any unsightly parts!
  3. Place the twist on the prepared baking sheet. Beat the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons water; brush this on top of the twist. Scatter the almonds over the twist; sprinkle with sugar. Cover; let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Bake until browned and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180-degrees halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool before eating, if you have the inner strength.

Giant Twist Roll