Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Braided Bread to End the Year

It is only recently, with the blessing of starter awaiting my creativity in the fridge, that I've really spent much time or thought on bread baking. The more I know, the more I realize that I don't know...always a promising start to a new hobby.

One of the breads that I have always admired and often thought that I would make, but never did, is a simple braided bread. This Christmas the Third Sister Down gave me a great new baking book called, plainly enough, Baking, by Martha Day.

It has over 400 recipes and more than 1800 photographs so it is my kind of book. There are recipes for breads, muffins, cakes, pies, tarts, and cookies.

One of the bread recipes is exactly what I was looking for. The dough is enriched with some butter and an egg, honey and milk, and it worked up into a slightly sticky dough with nice long gluten strands. I thought it might be difficult to braid since it was so soft, but those strands helped. It easily braided and make a spectacular looking loaf. The best part was that it tastes really, really good. I especially enjoy it toasted with a little butter and jam.

The only change I made was that I substituted a cup of my sourdough starter for the yeast, but then added 1/4 teaspoon of dry yeast to the milk mixture, just in case. I added the flour slowly and let it knead a long time in the KA mixer. Because my starter is on the wet side, I added about another 5 or 6 oz. of flour.

Braided Bread
based on Plaited Loaf recipe in Baking , by Martha Day

1 tablespoon active dry yeast (¼ teaspoon active dry yeast if using starter, too)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm milk (not over 100 degrees F) – I used a combination of condensed milk and low fat milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
(1 cup sourdough starter, if using)
1 egg, slightly beaten
15 oz. bread flour, plus about another 1 cup if using starter
Note: Flour amounts vary depending on moisture of the flour and of the kitchen
1 teaspoon salt
Glaze: 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Combine the yeast, honey, milk and butter. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes.

Stir the egg (and the starter if you are using it) into the milk mixture and put in a mixer bowl. If you have a large stand mixer use it.

Stir together the flour and the salt. Pour about half into the mixer bowl with the milk mixture and mix with the paddle attachment or stir with a spoon. Switch to a dough hook, if using. Add the rest of the flour, about a 1/3 cup at a time, until the dough is soft but holds together well. At the end you may need to add the flour a tablespoon at a time. If not using a stand mixer, turn out on a floured surface when it is too hard to stir the flour in. Knead the rest of the flour in. Knead with mixer or by hand until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn over to oil both sides. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.

Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment or a silicone mat. Set aside.

Turn risen dough out onto a floured board. Knead for a minute to release trapped gas. Divide into three even pieces of dough. Shape each piece into a long ‘snake’, about 18 inches long. Place the three strands side by side on the prepared pan. Starting at the middle, braid the three strands, then turn it and braid the other side. Tuck the ends under. Cover loosely and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the loaf with the glaze using a pastry brush. Bake until golden, for about 40-45 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool.


  1. Oh Elle!! That braided bread is incredible looking.

    Considering your new roots in the world of wild starters and all the bread you've made this year, you have absolutely taken the world of yeast like the proverbial duck to water.

    Happy New Year my friend.

  2. Ah I can smell it now . . . Happy New Year Pat!

  3. What a gorgeous loaf! Good job. Toasted with butter and jam would be perfect for breakfast.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Must cut my carbs, must not eat bread so much - please pass the bread - don't leave out the jam. Ahhhh...that's living.

  5. That turned out gorgeous!

  6. Breadchick, Happy New Year to you! Yes, I'm surprised, but I feel very comfortable with the wild yeast breadmaking...too much fun!

    Tanna, Happy New Year to you, too. More good smells happening in the kitchen all the time these days.

    Lynn, Happy New Year!Thank you...coming from you that means are a great baker, just like the lovely ladies above.

    Dear Giz, Sometimes bread and jam is just perfect.

    Peabody, Thanks!!

  7. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Really beautiful braided loaf. Happy New Year!