One of my favourite things to do with bread is braid it. It really makes a simple loaf of bread look all fancy-like and takes very little work. At first when I saw some loaves that were braided I thought there would be too much effort required and that it would be so much easier to just plop the dough into loaf pans. Little did I know, this technique is so simple (as long as you know how to braid).
Braided bread is a really nice touch if you are having company or even giving some fresh baked goodness away as a gift. Also, I have found that I prefer to make bread this way because then I can bake it on my stoneware. I don't have a stoneware loaf pan (yet). I'd really really like one someday. (Hubby, if you are reading this, which I know you are not, consider that a HINT). I always find improved results when baking on stoneware. My stoneware pieces are all from Pampered Chef. When I say all, I mean both. I only have the pizza stone and the medium bar pan. They are both multi-functional though. They work for bread, cookies, squares, main dishes, almost anything.
Okay, so let's get to it. So far, I've tried braided bread with three different recipes. Garlic, Onion and Black Pepper Bread, Cracked Wheat Bread and Cheesey Garlic French Bread. Although I have some pictures of the first one, I'm only going to share the Cheesey Garlic French Bread recipe right now because I wasn't entirely sold on the Black Pepper loaf and I don't have the Cracked Wheat recipe written down. I made it at the in-laws and got the recipe out of a bread machine recipe book that my MIL has.
Cheesey Garlic French Bread
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or bread flour)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (I have a Parmesan and sun dried tomato blend and it was delish!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (resist the urge to add more - garlic will inhibit your yeast. If you are looking for a more garlicky flavour, brush the top of the loaf with garlic butter during baking).
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1. Place all ingredients in breadmaker in the order listed. Select the dough cycle.
2. When cycle is complete, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
3. Separate dough into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a 12 inch snake. Do your best to make sure that all snakes are equal in thickness and that they are not thicker or thinner at the ends compared to in the middle. If they are not equal, you will have problems like I did.
4. Bring the top of all three snakes together and press together firmly. You may want to dab a little bit of water on them to make sure they stay together nicely. Tightly braid the strands. The tighter you braid, the less likely your loaf will pull apart. But be careful not to stretch the strands too much or else, again, you will have problems like I did.
5. Cover braid and let rise for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. (My oven is hot, so you might want to do 375).
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush lightly with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
7. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. Your bread is done when it sounds hollow when you tap it. If it is getting too brown but you don't think it is done, cover lightly with tin foil. In my picture, you can see how one end started to pull away because the strands were too thin near the end and I stretched them out too much.
The verdict: The Fabulous Dude raved about this bread and said it was his favourite yet. The bad news, we ate almost the entire loaf with dinner!!