Thursday, February 26, 2015

Soft Braid

This has been an amazingly busy month, but one without much bread baking. I did make the Bread Baking Babes bread and we just loved those sweet, buttery morsels, but I've been longing for something a lot more plain and basic. This bread is very loosely based on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour folks, but I've made so many changes that I'm not going to do a link.

I think you will enjoy this one as much as Sweetie and I did. We had it with dinner last night and it went really well with the clam chowderish soup I made. This morning I had some sliced and toasted with just a dab of butter and it was excellent. I think that the double rise of the starter, plus the nonfat dry milk help to make the flavor deeper than one might expect from a relatively quick yeast bread. The white whole wheat flour I used helps, too.

So, warm up your kitchen with some fresh baked bread. The fragrance alone will make you glad you did!

Braided Soft Bread
This single loaf is a nice braid with a soft crust and soft, tight crumb inside. It has good flavor and makes great toast.

 1/4 cup barely warm water
.25 oz rapid rise yeast
 1/2 teaspoon sugar
 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided

 all of the starter
 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
 1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
 2/3 cup lukewarm water

1) To make the starter: Put the warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and let hydrate for 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour. Let sit in a warm place for 1/2 hour. Stir in the second 1/2 cup flour. Again let sit in a warm place for 1/2  to 1 hour. The longer sitting time will add to the flavor of the bread, just a bit.

2) To make the dough: Whisk the plain and whole wheat flours together in a bowl. (I used white whole wheat flour instead of regular whole wheat flour.) Combine the starter with the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough. You may need slightly more or less than 2 cups flour.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measure, or oiled dough rising container; cover, and let it rise for about 90 minutes, till it's just about doubled in bulk.

4) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough log, and let the logs rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. This gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax, which in turn will make the logs easier to roll.

5) Roll each log into a snake about 14-15 inches long. Snakes should be the same length. Place snakes next to each other on a parchment lined baking sheet and braid. Tuck ends under. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, and allow to rise till very puffy, about 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

10) The braid will need to bake for about 25 minutes. It will be lightly golden brown and, if you tap the bottom of the braid, it will sound hollow. Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Makes one loaf.

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