This is a wonderful and easy recipe for bread that is traditionally braided, often using three braids but sometimes as many as six braids and can even be made into round braids. (The rounds are often made for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, using dried fruit inside the bread braids to represent the sweetness of God’s gift of new beginnings. For those who are believers in the Messiah (Yeshua/Jesus), we already know the sweetness of a spiritual new beginning and look forward to the sweet day when we will be physically restored to a new beginning in the New Jerusalem where we will dwell with our Lord forever.) This is a bread that our family regularly enjoys and for which we most often “gives thanks”, with various members getting involved in the making, braiding, and toppings. It’s fun. (It also can be wrapped and stored in the freezer, but only if cooled completely, then wrapped tightly and very well in plastic wrap, and then stored inside a ziploc freezer bag in the freezer, as it can easily dry out.) Also, I separate the eggs and store the eggs whites in a ziploc bag in the freezer to accumulate until I have enough for an angel food cake. Yummy! (Guess you’ll need to wait for the cookbook for my quite unusual and survival-minded angel food cake recipe. I’m still slowly working on the cookbook, so please be patient!)
- 4 tsp dry yeast
- 1 1/4 c warm water, divided (approximately bath temperature or 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 3 generous Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 1/4 – 4 1/2 c bread flour or very finely, freshly ground whole wheat flour (I usually use 3 cups powder fine whole wheat plus 1 1/4 bread flour, but it’s okay just to use bread flour)
- 1 egg yolk, beaten, plus 1 Tbsp water
- Kosher salt (optional)
- Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds (optional)
- Combine the yeast, honey, and approximately 1/2 cup of the warm water in your mixer’s bowl. Allow to stand 10-15 minutes while the yeast activates and you measure and mix the other ingredients.
- Generously oil the interior bottom and sides of a large glass bowl with extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the remaining water, oil, and 3 egg yolks; mix together with a whisk.
- In a separate bowl, combine 4 1/4 cups of flour(s) and salt; stir together.
- Before turning the mixer on (or mixing by hand), add layers of a small amount of the water/oil mixture and the a small amount of the flour mixture to the yeast water with repeated layering until all have been added to the mixer bowl. Once all of the ingredients have been added, turn the machine on low speed (or mix by hand). Dough will form a ball. Scrape down sides if necessary while ingredients are combining. If dough is well mixed but sticks to the bottom of the bowl, stop mixer, add 1/4 cup of flour, and then turn the mixer back on and let it run again for several minutes to combine well and see if this time the dough will form a ball and lift out of the bowl easily. If not, add a few more tablespoons of flour and mix thoroughly again, until the dough can be handled. It shouldn’t be very sticky at all.
- Place the dough in the well oiled bowl and turn the dough over so that the dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, dry cloth and place it in a warm (not hot; must be less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit) place to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough. The dough can be punched down and allowed to rise two or three times until you are ready to shape it.
- This recipe makes two very generous size loaves or four smaller loaves. A kitchen scale is handy for weighing the dough to get each loaf about the same size. (I usually make four smallish loaves, which each make about six generous servings.)
- Once ready to shape, preheat oven to 375 degrees and remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured kneading/work board. Cut dough into either two or four portions (whatever number of loaves you’re making). Then, cut each portion into the appropriate number of braid portions and role the braids. Braid/shape the loaves as desired.
- Place braided/shaped loaves on parchment lined baking sheets (or lightly greased baking sheet). Gently, use a basting/pastry brush to brush tops and sides of dough portions with the egg yolk-water wash. Sprinkle with kosher salt and/or your choice of seeds; cover the dough lightly, and let it rise again until it doubles in size (about an hour).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. (A convection oven set on 365 degrees is ideal.) Bake for 18-25 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves and your oven. It takes some practice to tell when the bread is done, but usually the top and the bottom are a light gold color.
NOTE: To modify for Jewish New Year, roll dough strips out flat and lay dried applies and/or raisins and then close up the dough ropes so that the apples/raisins are inside the dough ropes that are then braided into shapes (usually into a round for Rosh Hashanah– the new year/new beginning of the cycle of life). You may also choose to add a touch of cinnamon to your dough and/or cinnamon sugar on your apple/raisin filling and then sprinkle powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or frosting on the top after it has baked, or dip pieces in honey. This is a very yummy, versatile recipe and has been time-tested again and again in our household and among many of our friends and their families.
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