Braided Bread..

Braided Bread..adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ohhhhh..you know I love me a good braid.  When I was little, I would braid my hair countless times a day. Then, I’d braid my Barbie hair.  I just couldn’t get enough.  And you know what? I can’t get enough of these little braided bread loaves.  (is it a loaf? Bun? Thingy?)  Whatever it is..I can’t get enough. When I first found this recipe, we made it 3 times that week.  Count with me…3!  And since each recipe makes two ‘loaves’…well..you do the math. I was one happy, and stuffed, mama. :D 

What is a Bread Braid?  Well, in my simple language, it’s basically bread with yumminess stuffed in it, then cooked ’till a nice, golden crust is formed.  You can stop licking the screen now. It’s ok. We all have a weakness. ;)  What? You’re not licking the screen?? Maybe this will help..

The very cool thing about these bread braids, is that you can stuff them full of so many different things.  For dinner, stuff it with pepperoni, olives, onions and cheese for a pizza tasting braid.  Or..stuff it with ham and cheese. (Which just happens to be my personal favorite. See below..)

For a more sweeter tasting treat, stuff it with cream cheese and blueberries or apples.  Both of which I..er..I mean..all of us…devoured. :D

You just can’t go wrong.  Now..it’s your turn. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the bread:
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 package yeast (3/4 tablespoon instant yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast)
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour (I have found that by using less, around 3-3 1/2 cups is perfect)

*In your large mixing bowl, combine the warm water, and yeast.
*Let it proof (start to ‘bubble’ and float to the top, until it is nice and foamy. About 5 minutes.) 
*Add the sugar, oil, and salt. 
*Begin mixing, and adding the flour..one cup at a time.
*Do this until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.
*The dough should feel soft and smooth, but still tacky to the touch.
*Kneed the dough in the mixer for about 5 minutes, or by hand for about 10 minutes.
*Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl, making sure to turn it completely in the spray.
*Cover the bowl with lightly greased/sprayed plastic wrap.
*Let the dough rise until doubled (usually, this takes around an hour)

For the filling:
This is where it gets fun.  Use anything from cheese and pepperoni, ham and cheese, fruit and cream cheese..go crazy!

After the dough has gone through the first rise, divide the dough into two parts.  Lightly cover one portion, and set aside.  Roll the other portion into an 11×17 (or as close to that as you can.) inch rectangle.  (It is easier to roll this onto parchment paper and then transfer the whole thing to a cookie sheet.)

Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut 1-inch wide strips in towards the middle of the dough starting on the long sides.  There should be a solid strip about 3 inches wide down the center, with the cut strips forming a fringe down each side.  Spread half the filling down the center strip.  Fold the side strips over the filling, alternating from each side.  Just like a braid. (Hence the name, Bread Braid.) Pinch or twist the top and sides to seal.

Place the braid on a lined baking sheet and let it rest for 15 minutes.  While it is resting, follow the steps above to complete the second braid. Bake the first braid for 15-20 minutes in a pre-heated 400*  (While the second braid is resting) until golden brown and bread is baked through.  Remove from oven and cook the second braid.

Let braids rest for 5 minutes.  Using a serrated knife,  cut braid into sections and serve warm.

Now..that was a lot to take in. For a picture  ‘how-to’, check out this link (where I found this amazing recipe): 
 Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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