My fascination with bread ignited in elementary school when Mrs. Fox started reading the most wonderful series of books aloud to our third grade class by Robin Moore - The Bread Sister of Sinking Creek. I need to read the stories to my children; hopefully I can do the voices as good as my teacher did.
Swiss Braided Bread is my favorite to make. It is much like making a hand-rolled soft pretzel. If you're looking for something beautiful at your dinner table this Easter, I recommend you make this. The recipe comes from 500 Treasured Country Recipes from Martha Storey and Friends.
Swiss Braided Bread
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus ½ cup if needed
1 egg yolk, beaten and mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the water; stir until dissolved. Add the milk powder, sugar, salt, butter, and egg; mix well to break the butter into small pieces.
2. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour and continue to stir with the wooden spoon. Remember, it is easy to add more flour as needed, but it is impossible to remove flour if the dough becomes too stiff.
3. Scrap the dough out of the bowl and knead it on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if the dough becomes unmanageably sticky.
4. Place the smooth ball of dough into a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until double in bulk. Make a fist and punch down the dough. Divide the dough in two, making one half slightly bigger than the other. Divide the larger half into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10 to 12 -inch strand. Separate into two groups of three strands and make two braids. Repeat process with the smaller half to make two slightly smaller braids. Place the smaller braids on top of the larger ones to make two double-decker braided loaves.
5. Grease a large baking sheet. Arrange the loaves on the sheet, at least 6 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.
6. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush each loaf with the glaze. Bake the loaves for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 2 large loaves
When cranberries are in season I enjoy making (ok, mostly eating) Cranberry Swirl Loaf by Taste of Home. It's another great presentation bread that I can't get enough of. I want to experiment with this bread in the spring when strawberries are in season and we're picking more than we can eat.
For the past few years I've been using Spelt flour for most of my baking and cooking. Spelt is higher in protein, fiber and B vitamins than wheat and it is easier to digest than it's distant cousin wheat. It is easy to incorporate into recipes. The only changes that need to be made is to cut out 25% of the liquid from the recipe. However, when it comes to using Spelt for yeast bread...well let's just say it's a work in progress. Several attempts have resulted in bread that has brick like qualities. But just this past week I finally found some recipes at Peachy Palate that seem to be worth my time and effort. So far I've tried Wholegrain Spelt Sandwich Bread and Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Spelt Bread. I look forward to trying many more.