Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bread Baking

I'm on a new kick…braiding bread!  A couple months ago, I did some extensive research (thank you, Pinterest), and I have come up with a pretty fail-proof method of bread braiding and shaping.  I thought I would share it and my lovely bread loaves.  The recipe listed here makes 4 loaves, but you can halve or quarter (or double, you crazy person).  The amounts are thanks to the cookbook The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (I've got the link below).  The actual method of making the bread is an odd mix of my mother's recipe and my own trial-and-error.
The bread dough, before it rose.

1.  Put 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast into 1 cup of lukewarm water into your Kitchen Aid mixer (or a large bowl).  Add enough flour to make a dough that is similar to pancake batter.  Let sit until bubbles form and go about your business (I decided what baking music I wanted to listen to ).  It was such a warm, humid day today that this only took about 5 minutes.  On a windy winter day in January, it's going to take a lot longer.
The loaves, about to be covered before they rise.

2.  Once batter is bubbly, mix in 5 teaspoons of salt, 4 tablespoons of oil (I used coconut), and 4 tablespoons of honey dissolved in 4 1/2 cups of water.  Add flour (I used spelt) until you have a very wet dough (sorry, I can't really be any more specific than that).  Now for the enjoyably messy part.

3.  Sprinkle flour all over fairly large surface (I use the kitchen table) and dump all that sticky dough onto the flour.  Then, keep adding more flour as you vigorously knead until the dough is springy and elastic.  Oil a clean bowl and dump all the dough in and cover with a wet towel to rise until it's doubled in size and when you poke it, the hole doesn't fill in.
…So you can see the braids.

4.  Once this happens, you can do one of two things.  The "real" thing to do next is to punch the dough down and let it rise once more.  However, I was in a slap-dash mood, so I just punched the dough down and shaped it right away.  Divide that dough into four equal sections.  Then, roll each of the sections into an oblong shape and divide into four snake-like pieces (the strips should be about 1" thick).  Pinch the ends of all of the strips together and gently cross the strips over each other (doesn't need to be any particular pattern).  It helps to grease the heck out of your hands.  If your braided dough ended up a lot longer than will fit in your bread pan, just fold the edges under.  Let sit again until the dough has risen up to the edges of the bread pan.  Just chuck the pans in the oven at 350 for about an hour and you're done.  And voila!  You have gorgeous braided bread.   Oh, and then cut yourself a gorgeous, warm slice and spread with butter and honey.  I'm eating a slice right now as I type.
All finished!

Now about this cookbook-it's really great.  It's a really handy book to have on hand and the pretty woodcuts just add to the general loveliness of the book.  The instructions are very extensive and you will have no doubt as to what you are doing when you use a recipe out of this cookbook.  There is everything in here from the classic whole-wheat bread dough recipe that I loosely used to rice-sesame crackers, to spicy currant bread.  I've been inspired by this book to do some more interesting bread baking and braiding!

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    Interesting change from books!

    I would get hold of a copy of English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David - it covers everything about bread, history and loads of recipes and tips. It is also a good read too even if you don't make any bread!