Kelly the Culinarian: Stand mixer Sunday: Braided loaf

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Braided loaf

So many holidays, not enough time to celebrate them all with appropriate foods. So instead of Irish soda break or Easter bread or something, I'm just going with a braided loaf. It's pretty and tasty and can be quite festive for any occasion.

Here's what you need:

Start with 1 and 3/4 cups lukewarm milk

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 packet yeast

Combine and set aside for 10 minutes until it's frothy.

In the meantime, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon sugar in the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, combine the flour and yeast mixture; set aside in the microwave or some other draft-free place until it froths, about 30 minutes.

Next, combine about four cups flour with 2 teaspoons salt and work 2 tablespoons butter into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs.

When the yeasty mixture is done frothing add one egg, put it back on the stand mixer, scrape down the sides and start adding the rest of the flour gradually while the mixer runs on low with bread hook attachment. You may need to add more flour or water one tablespoon at a time until everything is incorporated. Then, set the stand mixer at three or four and let it knead for five minutes. When there's a smooth, stretchy dough, put it in a greased bowl and set aside for an hour or two until it doubles.

Next, turn it out on a floured surface and divide into three equal pieces, forming into ropes about 16 inches long. Greased a baking sheet and braid the ropes, pinching the threads together at the bottom and top and turning over. Cover with a damp towel and set aside until doubled again, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. Brush with another egg beaten lightly with water and a pinch of sea salt. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until brown. Turn the heat down to 400 for another 10 minutes. When the loaf is cooked enough, remove from the baking sheet and place right on the oven rack to allow the bottom to brown. It should take about 40 minutes total to cook it properly.

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