Sunday, June 6, 2010

Not Afraid to Braid

What’s one thing that intimidates you in the kitchen?

For me, it has always been bread.

The yeast, the exact measurements, the sifting, the kneading, the rolling, and the waiting—it would be so much easier to just buy a loaf of bread, right?

But then there’s the wonderful aroma that fills my kitchen and the accomplishment that comes with each successful slice. So I would say that I will mingle with bread making the least I can, and when I do, I usually turn to my bread machine which is a quick fix!

However, lately, I decided it’s time to dive into the world of bread making head on—as in making not just your average loaf, and making not one, but two different braided loaves. With fingers crossed, I waited for both loaves to rise—check. Then watched as it slowly browned in the oven—check. Let it cool and then cut it into even slices—check. Taste? Check! Appearance? Check! Success? Double check!

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“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad but bread is king.”
Louis Bromfield, American novelist

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Chocolate Braids

Serves: 16

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/3 cup honey, divided
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups bread flour
  • CREAM CHEESE FILLING:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • TOPPING:
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

  • ICING:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • Directions:

  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 2 teaspoons honey; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the butter, egg, cocoa, salt, 1-1/2 cups bread flour and remaining honey. Beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Stir in enough remaining bread flour to form a soft dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down; divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion into a 12-in. x 7-in. rectangle.
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  • In a small bowl, beat filling ingredients until smooth. Spread half of the filling over dough to within 1 in. of edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal.
  • Place seam side down on a large greased baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut roll in half lengthwise, leaving one end intact. Carefully turn cut sides up. Loosely twist strips around each other, keeping cut side up. Pinch ends to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
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  • For topping, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Add nuts. Sprinkle over loaves.
  • Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over loaves.
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    CIMG2362

    Frosted Caramel Nut Braid

    Serves: 10

    Ingredients:

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
  • 1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • CARAMEL FILLING:
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • FROSTING:
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons water
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Directions:

    • In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add milk, eggs, sugar, butter, salt and 2 cups four; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft but sticky dough. Do not knead. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. Beat 25 strokes with a spoon; turn onto a well-floured surface.
    • Roll into a 16-in. x 12-in. rectangle. Combine filling ingredients with a fork; spread evenly over the dough. Cut dough lengthwise into three strips. Roll up jelly-roll style, beginning at a long end; pinch edges and ends to seal. Place three rolls diagonally, seam side down, on a foil-lined 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Braid ropes together gently (do not stretch); seal ends. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

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    • Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and cool slightly on wire rack.
    • For frosting, heat butter in a saucepan over low heat until golden brown; cool slightly. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Stir in enough water to make a spreadable consistency. Frost top of braid; immediately sprinkle with pecans.

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    11 comments:

    Kerstin said...

    I'm impressed - both loaves look fabulous! I've always been too intimidated to try braiding bread, but I'm going to add it to my to do list :)

    Mary said...

    I think we have to give you a "passed with flying colors" on this one. You did a great job and can make braided bread for me anytime you want. Both of these loaves are gorgeous. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

    Krista said...

    Yeast scares the crap outta me, too! But you did a fantastic job on those loaves!!! YUM!

    Jenny said...

    Wow!! This is definitely one of the most impressive recipes I've seen around blogworld yet. Your culinary skills are just astounding, sweets!!!

    The Healthy Hostess said...

    You go girl~ That looks so amazing! I am totally impressed!
    :)

    Jessica said...

    Wow - I am mega impressed. I fail at bread. I've tried several times. Last time we could have played baseball with the loaf!
    Beautiful recipe! You are a baking inspiration!

    Lindsay @ http://pancakesnpajamas.blogspot.com/ said...

    The braids are gorgeous. I'm pretty sure you have this down! :)

    Erica said...

    I LOVE homemade bread. It smells and tastes amazing...plus you feel truly accomplished when it turns out right (especially when its yeast bread). Both look delicious. But I want some of #1 please.

    Rebecca said...

    I use to bake bread a lot when I was younger, but I don't think I have done so in like 10+ years. Kind of crazy. Maybe I will try again sometime soon and see if I still got my magic touch!

    Miss Kate said...

    Oh my goodness! You have made me so hungry now. I'll have to confront my fear of yeast-raised breads again and try these braids. They seem to be worth the effort!

    Kim said...

    You really rocked out with some awesome bread! Great job. Loved the quote about "bread being king". When fresh bread is on the table, it is the first thing that people reach for.