The December/January issue of "The Woman Today" magazine featured an article that presented the idea of making teddy bear shaped breads for gift giving. Emma saw the pictures of the adorable, chubby bears and begged to bake some before Christmas. I loved the idea and knew that these bears would be well received. I added them to my mental holiday baking list that was growing longer by the day.
Fast forward a few weeks until Christmas Eve, when there was finally a chance to do some serious bread baking. I decided to use a combination of a few basic cardamom bread recipes that were already in my bulging recipe box and hoped for good results. Given my partially Scandinavian heritage, I had heard much about cardamom over the years, but this was my first time actually baking with it. Cardamom has a unique sweetly pungent smell with undertones of something similar to anise.
I have to say, this bread was a hit with my family and I think I will be making this recipe throughout the year, not just on a special occaison. I ended up making a triple batch! Each recipe makes about four medium sized bears. You could make them whatever size you want, just keep in mind to adjust the baking time. I used my heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment to mix this.
Cardamom Teddy Bears
2 tablespoons active yeast (room temperature)
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs (room temperature and lightly beaten)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 cups all purpose flour
Combine yeast with warm water and a spoonful of sugar in mixing bowl. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes. When yeast mixture is foamy, add milk, oil, sugar, vanilla, beaten eggs, cardamom, salt, and 1 cup of flour at a time. When combined, continue adding flour, 1 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky. Place in greased bowl, turn once so top of dough is greased also. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size. Punch down dough. Divide in fourths. From each fourth you will need a large ball for the bear body, a medium size ball for the head and ears, and small balls for the arms and legs. Little bits of dough can be used for the nose. Attach to body by wetting dough slightly where pieces will be joined, then pinch edges together. Let rise until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350. Bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in middle of body comes out almost clean. Place on wire racks to cool.
For icing, combine a few tablespoons of butter in a sauce. When melted and golden brown, remove from heat, and stir in enough powdered sugar to make a thick paste. Add milk or cream until desired consistency, then drizzle liberally over bears. Can add raisins for eyes.