There are few things I love more than fresh bread from the bakery. Except, of course, fresh bread made in my kitchen. While I love to bake bread, I rarely have the occasion to do so. Mostly because it can be pretty time consuming and it’s just so convenient to buy bread at the grocery store. However, yesterday we had a blizzard that stranded me indoors and provided the perfect opportunity.
Wednesday night, I went to dinner with friends, and while we knew snow would be coming, reports were inconsistent as to how much we should expect. On the ride home, we decided we should stop for all of our last minute essentials. You know, the proverbial milk and bread that all humans are obligated to buy before a weather event of any magnitude. I only planned to buy a few things, mostly for Nikki just to be safe. After grabbing some cold cuts from the deli and meat from the butcher, I headed in the direction of bread. The impending Snowpacalyse, however, had really done a number on the grocery store’s bread supply.
I shrugged it off, grabbed some snacks and headed home. Yesterday, however, as the blizzard pounded at our windows we lost power. I bundled Nikki up in hopes that power would return soon and I lit the stove with matches to have some heat source. I decided to use the open heat and meat I picked up yesterday to make a big pot of chili. Suddenly, I regretted my lack of bread. It is a chili accouterment I simply cannot do without. Naturally, once our power returned – 4 1/2 hours later – I decided to get to baking. I opted for a simple braided semolina loaf, which is both pretty and delectable.
Have you ever seen anything so pretty?
I promise that while this bread looks like it is complicated to make, nothing could be further from the truth. It is incredibly easy, and requires very little work. Give it a shot the next time you feel like baking something new and you will definitely be pleasantly surprised.
Braided Semolina Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cups semolina flour
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar or non-diastatic malt powder
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cups lukewarm water
- 1 beaten egg
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Onion flakes dehydrated
- Garlic flakes dehydrated
- Coarse salt
Add all ingredients except the egg and toppings to the work bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn mixer onto the lowest setting and mix until a shiny, elastic dough forms. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and form into a neat mass. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Pat one piece into a rough oval. Use the side of your hand to press an indentation along the length of the dough piece. Fold the dough together along the length of the indentation and roll lightly with the hands to form a thick rope between 12 and 14 inches long. Repeat with the other two pieces so that you have 3 ropes of roughly equal length. Line them up in parallel with the ends facing you.
Gently grasp the end of the rope on the far left. Lift it to about the center, leaving the far end on the counter, cross it over the rope nearest to it and lay it down. Now grasp the end of the piece on the far right and lift it to about the center, leaving its far end on the counter, cross it over the (now) center rope (which is the first one you moved) and lay it down. This is the manoeuver you will repeat - far left over center, far right over center, and so on- until you have ends too short to continue. At that point, pinch the ends together and tuck under the braid. Now go back to the center of the loaf and finish braiding the loaf toward the top. When you reach the ends, pinch together and tuck under. Cover the loaf lightly and let rise in a warm place until puffy in appearance and about doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk the egg until very loose. Paint generously onto the risen bread braid and sprinkle with desired toppings.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your preferred shade of golden to deep brown and firm on top. Allow bread to cool before serving