Happiness is the smell of freshly baked bread! I often remind myself that happiness comes from within, but it is always nice to have a friend to help out on those extra challenging days…why not bread! For me, baking bread is another form of creativity. How golden brown will the crust be? What shape do I want to experiment with next? (I have to admit, creating bread turtles brings out a lot of happiness in me!) So, for this last winter weekend, before spring approaches, I thought my favorite braided herb bread recipe would be the perfect slice of happiness to share. Now, let’s get twisted!
Simple Braided Herb Bread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Yield – 1 braided loaf
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 C warm water
1 C warm water
1 T melted butter
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 C bread flour – I prefer King Arthur unbleached
3 T of fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme and oregano work well
2 T melted butter
Step 1: In a bowl, add 1/4 C warm water, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2 1/2 tsp yeast. Stir. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes, allowing time for the yeast to activate.
Step 2: Add 1 C of warm water, 1 T of melted butter and 1 tsp salt to the yeast mixture.
Step 3: Beat in flour. (I let my Kitchen Aid do all of the work!) I prefer adding no more than 1 cup at a time. Your dough should be slightly sticky.
Step 4: Knead dough for 7-8 minutes, until it becomes smooth and stretchy. You might need to add a bit more flour during this process, for this consistency. (Once again, I let my Kitchen Aid do the work!) After kneading, shape dough into one large ball and place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Cover the bowl with Cling wrap and place in a warm area for 50-60 minutes. It should double in size, during this time.
Step 5: Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Knead fresh herbs into each part. This is where I like to be creative! If I am in a hurry, I tend to go with all rosemary. I grow it year round inside, so I always have fresh on hand. Mixing a different herb into each portion is always a yummy choice, too. I have also enjoyed using lavender with a touch of honey. Be creative and take risks! Cooking is Art! Regardless of what herbs you choose to incorporate, you should end up with three equal sized herb-filled dough balls.
Step 6: Place the three herb-filled dough balls back in the bowl to rest for 10 minutes.
Step 7: Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll each dough ball between your hands, creating a long rope. Braid the three ropes together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under. If you are feeling fancy, pull the ends together to create a bread wreath. (See above photo) Cover and place in a warm area for 45 minutes.
Step 8: Brush the top of the dough with 2 T of melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Note: My family loves to dip this bread in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with an herb blend and Parmesan cheese. Yum!
Love Yourself…Embrace Yourself…Just Be You!