Cooking Spree: Braided Bread
A Braided Bread for Special Occasions – made easy with a food processor
This bread has been a favorite around our house for years. There’s hardly ANY time at all in the actual preparation. No muscles required, no sporty (red or otherwise) stand mixer to pull out of its cupboard. Just a food processor and a couple simple ingredients and you’re in the bakin’ business. Of course, like all yeasted breads, there’s time spent loitering around. You design what form your loitering will take, but here’s how to make the bread – so easy, you might confuse it with play. First, I’ll give of all the instructions for the basic braided loaf (in the style of Challah, a Jewish egg bread.) Then I’ll show you how to adapt it so as to end up with a Greek-style festive Easter bread.
NOTE: Milk brought to temperature may be substituted for the water. Melted butter may be used in place of the oil. Both of these substitutions will result in a richer loaf.
In the bowl of the processor, whir the egg and salt together, then pour into a small cup and reserve. No need to wash the work bowl.
In a small bowl, stir the yeast and the sugar into the warm water and allow it to stand until all bubbly.
With the metal blade, put the flour, oil, eggs and salt into the work bowl and turn on the machine. Pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube and process until dough cleans the inside of the bowl.
If the dough sticks, add more flour by the tablespoon through the feed tube. Allow each addition to be incorporated before adding any more. If, on the other hand, the dough is too crumbly (doubtful), add water by the teaspoon through the feed tube. Again, allow any addition to be fully incorporated before adding more. Once you have the desired consistency, process the dough until uniformly supple and elastic – only about 40 seconds. Easy huh?
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and rotate to coat the entire surface with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit quietly in a warm spot until doubled – about an hour.
With your fist punch (only once) the dough to deflate; then dump onto a floured work surface. Divide into three equal portions. Roll each of the 3 pieces into a rope, about 16-18 inches long. Place 3 of the ropes lengthwise on the work surface in front of you, with an inch or so spacing between them. Lift the rope on the right and place it between the center rope and the rope on the left. Now take the left rope and place it between the center rope and the right rope. Continue in this manner (just these 2 movements) until you get to the end. (See photo above.) Pinch the ends together tightly. Tuck both pinched ends under and fluff it up to make it pretty.
Transfer the braided loaf to a baking sheet, lightly oiled, or a baking sheet with silicone pad or lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean cotton towel and allow to rise ’til doubled, about 1 hour.
Fifteen minutes before baking, place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400° F (205°C.)
When the loaf has doubled in size, brush with the reserved glaze and sprinkl with either poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 (205 C). Then reduce oven temperature to 350 F (175 C) and bake until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom – about 20 minutes longer. Immediately remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool.