Braided Pretzel Loaves

I knew I wanted to have bread on the table at our Pre-Thanksgiving feast and had already tested out the No-Knead Bread (remember the Easiest Bread Ever? Yea, that one!) and knew it would be perfect. But as I searched on Tastespotting for more ideas and revelations, I found these beautiful braided loaves and knew I wanted to try it out. I’ve been afraid of braided bread for a while (though I’m not sure why) and have thus still never tried making Challah. These not only turned out beautiful, they taste wonderful as well, with a slight pretzel-y flavor. They don’t take that long at all, aren’t labor intensive, and don’t even need that much resting time – perfect for holiday baking! Not to mention, they look gorgeous on your table.

Read on for the recipe and photos…

Ingredients

NOTE: This makes two small braided loaves

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup tepid water

1/2 cup milk

3 tbsp butter

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 eggs

6 – 7 cups bread flour

Egg wash: Egg white + 1 tbsp water, whisked

Sesame seeds for sprinkling if you like

Directions

  • Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water (I would add a little bit of the sugar to help it proof more quickly).
  • In a large mixing bowl, add milk, eggs, sugar, butter, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Blend well.
  • Continue adding flour and stirring (then kneading a bit) until a nice soft dough has formed – this dough is seriously a dream to work with.
  • Oil another bowl and place the dough in it, coating it with some of the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
  • Preheat oven to 350F and sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal or semolina.
  • Punch your dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface.
  • Divide the dough in half then divide each half into three.
  • Roll each piece out into a 12″ long rope – this part is a little tricky because the dough likes to spring back on you. I found the best method was to grip the ends and swing it like a jump rope in circles to expand the rope.
  • Pinch three ropes together, braid, then pinch the end and tuck under. Repeat for the other loaf.
  • Place on the coated baking sheet, cover with a slightly damn towel and let rise until doubled, 30 – 40 minutes (mine never quite doubled, but they turned out fine and not too dense!).
  • Brush egg wash over braids (and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired). Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until golden. They should sound hollow when you tap them.

I highly recommend serving these bad boys warm. And! You don’t even have to slice them if you don’t feel like it. If you’re among friends and family/people you like, this bread is great for just ripping pieces off, because the braid divides it into sections. A decorative and delicious addition to your holiday table.


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