Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Braided Bread

It's fun to make bread in shapes that make people wonder how it's done. A braid is a fairly simple shape, but this one looks a lot more complicated because of the multiple strands - 18 in a all. But don't worry, you're really only braiding three strands.

The sesame seeds are optional. I like the flavor, but the braid design is a little more obvious without them. You can still see the multiple strands when you're up close and slicing the bread, but the far view isn't as dramatic.

Chances are that you won't have a precise rectangle of dough when you roll it out, and that's perfectly fine. When you're done braiding, you'll be trimming the end, anyway, to even up that end.

You can use those leftover pieces to make a roll or two so you can sample your bread without cutting into the pretty finished loaf.

Braided Wheat Loaf

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes flakes
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Eggwash (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)

Combine the water, yeast, honey, flours, potato flakes, and dry milk in the bowl of your stand mixer. Knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil an continue kneading until the salt and oil are incorporated and the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Form it into a rough rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 14x18 inches. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, cut it into thirds, lengthwise, then cut each of those 3 pieces into 6 18-inch long strips.

Gather each group of six strands together loosely and pinch one end of each group together. Make a braid, treating each group of six as if it's one strand.

Keep the strands loose and try not to stretch the dough. When you get to the far end of the braid, trim off any long pieces, pinch the ends together, and tuck it under. Tuck the other end of the dough under as well,

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of the oven.

Transfer the braid to the backing sheet and straighten it and make it as even as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

When the dough has doubled, remove the plastic wrap and brush the dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the bread at 350 degrees until it is nicely browned, about 25 minutes.

Let the loaf cool completely on a rack until completely cool.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.