Friday, April 9, 2010

Step-by-Step Braided Bread

It's been a while since I wrote up a labor-intensive step-by-step post of a complicated kitchen endeavor. Well, good sirs and madams, wait no longer. What follows is the 11 pic procedure for baking a gorgeous loaf of braided bread. I made the Cranberry Braided Bread by Two Fat Als with only minor changes.

Whisk 3 c. bread flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 2 envelopes quick-rising yeast, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 T buttermilk powder together in a large bowl.

Add 1/2 c. water, 2 eggs, 2 T melted butter, 1 1/2 T vanilla extract and stir until combined. Gradually add 1/3 c. hot water until the dough forms a soft, sticky ball.

Knead dough until smooth. This will take about 7 minutes. Mine wasn't uber-smooth but I knew I'd keep kneading it in the next step.

About 1/4 c. at a time, knead 1 c. cranberries and 1/2 c. chopped walnuts into the dough.

Place dough ball in lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and place in a warm place to double in size, about an hour and a half. (While kneading the dough, I heated the oven to about 200 degrees and then turned it off. The residual heat works like a dream.)

See what I mean? Punch down the dough and...

divide it into four equal(ish) parts. Set one part aside and roll the other three into about 13'' long snakes.

Braid the three dough snakes together and turn both ends under. Move the braided loaf to a lightly greased baking sheet. Beat one egg and brush the braided loaf.

Divide your remaining dough ball into three equal parts and roll them into about 10" snakes. Braid the snakes and place this smaller braid on top of the larger. Brush the small braid with egg and allow the loaf to rise a second time, about another hour or so.

After the second rise, brush the loaf with the beaten egg again and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

And it's just that easy. Two Fat Als insist that you allow the loaf to cool for at least 45 minutes before you slice it, but that didn't happen for me. I was already late to the party since I mis-timed the rises, so I hack the loaf in half and ran out the door. No one was any the wiser.

The bread itself was quite good. The cranberries brought a sweetness to the bread that was refreshing. I'm sure this would have only been bettered by the orange extract that Two Fat Als used (I substituted vanilla extract here), but I didn't have any of that in the house. For me, the bread toed the troublesome line between sweet and... bread... so the next day I used the second half of my loaf to make two other dishes.

I bet regular readers already know what those two dishes were. I'm nothing if not consistent. (I'd appreciate any comments to the contrary. Things like "No way, Amanda! One of the things I love about you is your spontaneity!" will do nicely.)


Amber said...

That is one truly beautiful loaf of bread. Seriously, gorgeous.

Evan said...

I hope one of the extra dishes was bread pudding.

Ash said...

Love this loaf! I need to get on the bread train and make my own.... hopefully soon.

Mat said...

No way, Amanda! One of the things I love about you is your spontaneity!

Amanda said...

Oh, Mat, you're so sweet to say that! : )