Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Soft Braided Bread

Ok, I get it! Rumor has traveled back to me that some of you have actually checked the Indiana obituaries to see if I've passed on to the next life. Y'all can get back to reading the funny pages as I'm still among the living and will hopefully not be gracing the obitupages for a long, long time. I'm still alive, kicking and ornery as ever, but a recent osteoporosis diagnosis has forced me into abandoning my dream of becoming a rodeo clown. And I suppose as long as I'm revealing all, I had to shitcan the whole pole dancing thing as well. Sigh.


The reason for today's post? I am cleaning out my freezer and trying to use up the dozens of bags of flour that I accumulated when I was part of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. This bread recipe has become hubby's new favorite and I make it at least once a week. The basic recipe calls for All Purpose flour, but in the interest of using my specialty flours, I do substitute some of the AP with white whole wheat flour, regular whole wheat flour, and even Sir Lancelot flour. This post is not really intended to be a tutorial, but rather a permanent recipe card for me so I can finally toss the nasty sticky note with the handwritten recipe.
Soft Braided Bread

STARTER

2 cups flour (about 8 1/2 ounces) I used half Sir Lancelot and half white whole wheat flour for this loaf
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) room temperature water

Whisk together the flour and yeast in the bowl of stand mixer. Add water and stir well to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest on counter overnight (at least 12 hours)

DOUGH

2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (8 1/2 to 10 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP vital wheat gluten
2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup milk (room temperature)
1/4 cup (4 TBSP) shortening, cut into pieces (6-8)

In medium bowl, whisk 2 cups of the flour with the salt, sugar and wheat gluten. Set the remaining 1/2 cup of flour aside.

Add the milk to the starter and whisk to combine. Add the yeast and whisk to combine. Add the flour/salt/sugar mixture and stir to combine.

Attach dough hook to mixer and start to knead dough.. Gradually add in the shortening and then as much of the remaining flour as needed. Knead by machine for about 6 minutes.

Spray large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, gently deflating dough about halfway through rise time.

Cover large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina flour.

Pour dough onto greased counter and separate into three sections, about 11 ounces each. Roll each section into a 15 inch rope and then braid bread, tucking and sealing both ends of the loaf. Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet and cover loosely with greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise until double, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baking sheet in oven and bake bread for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees, rotate loaf 180 degrees for even browning and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove loaf from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.