Weekend breakfast dreams…braided bread and hot chocolate

Do you have a regular breakfast ingredient on weekends? I am a breakfast addict and love puttering in the kitchen in the morning when the sun shines right through the window. These are the most peaceful moments of the day and I love sinking in them. Especially on weekends. And when I was little, weekend breakfasts meant braided brioche with honey and a heartwarming cup of hot chocolate. (The sound of my grandma stirring hot chocolate in mugs on a tray on the way to our room will always echo in my head…)

So when I opened my eyes in the morning and felt the weekend sunshine I knew I had to make a brioche or some kind of braided bread. To be honest, I did skip many chapters in my home pastry chef book to look up a braided bread recipe, but I did read a lot of interesting stuff besides and I will go back to where I was in the book. I just needed the braided bread.

Oh, and did it turn out magically! I have tried something like this before but this recipe is so well written and gives so many hints that it is almost impossible to go wrong. For example, I learnt that the egg wash is better if you put a little salt in the beaten eggs because it will amplify the shine on the bread or whatever you are making and also works to thin the egg wash which makes it easier to apply right. You just have to let the salt dissolve in the egg so give it some time.

And about yeast: did you know that it only works right at certain temperatures (yeast fermentation gets damaged above 115 F – 46°C) and can “die” (above 145 F – 63°C) ?  Well, no wonder I had spoilt doughs before when putting the fresh yeast in HOT milk…oh well! And fresh yeast can be frozen too! That’s cool! Lifelong learning ROCKS!

So here is how the recipe goes. Next time, I’ll put some raisins or walnuts in it and experiment more with the flavors – this time I was praying to get the dough right.

Braided White Bread (yield: 2 loaves, 1 pound 4 ounces – 570 grams – each)Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces (40 g) fresh compressed yiest

1 1/2 cups (360ml) cold milk (slightly warmed)

12 ounces (340 g) bread flour ( I didn’t have different types of flour so I just used regular flour)

12 ounces (340 g) cake flour

1 1/2 ounces (40 g) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon salt

3 ounces (85 g) unsalted butter at room temperature

Egg wash

1. Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the flour, sugar and salt. Mix, using the dough hook, until the dough forms a ball. Incorporate the butter.

2. Knead at medium speed until a fine gluten structure develops, 8 to 10 minutes. Test by pulling off a small piece of dough and stretching it lightly; it it forms an almost translucent membrane, the dough has been kneaded enough. Do not overknead. If the dough is overkneaded, the gluten structure will be permanently damaged, resulting in a loose and hard-to-work dough that will not rise properly, if at all, because the damaged gluten cannot trap enough air.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat both sides with oil, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.Rising of the braided bread empire

4. Punch the dough down and form strings (depending on how many strings you want in your braid) . Place it on a sheet pan lined with baking paper and flatten it. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you are not forming the braids until the following day, freeze the dough at this point.

5. Braid and as you come to an end of the braid, pinch the strings together and tuck underneath.

6. Place the braided loaves on a sheet pan lined with baking paper.

7. Brush the loaves with egg wash and let rise until slightly less than doubled in volume. For extra shine, brush the braids  with egg wash again prior to baking.Braiding braided breads

8. Bake at 400F (205°C) for about 25 minutes. Cool on tracks.

Serve with jam or honey and a big mug of hot chocolate. Enjoy!Weekend breakfast

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