These mini-braided breads make perfect gifts or a lovely addition to brunch.
I know it’s late in the season for an apple cider recipe, but my ALDI is still carrying it. I am not a big fan of apple juice, but I love apple cider and cider-flavored goods. I combined a few recipes to come up with this beautiful bread that makes a fantastic gift.
I doubled this recipe and had little loaves to give out to my daughter’s supplemental class teachers last week. Homemade bread doesn’t take that much effort, but seems extra special when it is such an anomaly in our culture.
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced finely (optional)
In the bowl for your mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 10 minutes to proof and become bubbly.
Add apple cider, salt, and sugar and stir.
With mixer on knead setting and using a dough hook, gradually add flour about 1/2-cup at a time. When all is incorporated, also add apple pieces if using. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic; it may still be somewhat sticky, which is fine.
Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise for an hour in a warm place.
(You can also make dough in your bread machine on a dough setting.)
After this first rise, divide dough in half. Separate the half into three balls, then roll each ball out into a "snake" about 14 inches long. The strands will shrink; that is fine. Press the strands together at one end, then braid just as if you were braiding hair. Press together and fold under on the other end, then transfer braid to a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Repeat process with second half of dough.
Cover with towels again and let rise for a half-hour.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Remove towels. Brush loaves with milk and then sprinkle with turbanado (raw) sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.
You can also make this as one larger loaf. Adjust cooking time as necessary.
I am absolutely obsessed with this idea of yeast in the Bible. All it takes is a read of Leviticus (which is of course part of the Bible and should be read … but if you’re squeamish you might want to tread lightly).
God gives the Israelites a series of instructions on the offerings they must make to Him in Levitius. There are offerings for guilt, fellowship, unintentional sin, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and who knows what else. And in almost every instance, God commands that bread without yeast should be part of the offering.
(In one case in Leviticus 7, they are to bring loaves made with yeast, but I don’t think these were actually put on the altar, but simply given to the priests. I think.)
Reading through Leviticus in my one-year Bible, I can’t help but wonder: does God really HATE yeast? Is He against fluffy bread? Should I be only serving pita bread in my house, even now?
But more than anything, it comes down to what yeast represents. The passage I mentioned here is the only place in the Bible where yeast can be seen in a positive manner. Everywhere else, the Bible warns about the yeast of the Pharisees, the yeast of evildoers, generally, the yeast of sin.
Yeast doesn’t start as part of the flour, does it? It has to be carefully added, almost made into a potion with sugar and warm water or honey. Often, it has to proof. It’s a tricky little substance, but once it’s incorporated into the other ingredients it spreads like wildfire. It affects every nook and cranny of that bread dough. You can’t take out yeast once it’s put in.
To the Israelites, the yeast also served as a reminder of God’s goodness in saving them from slavery. They had to leave Egypt in such a hurry, there wasn’t time for their bread to rise (Ex. 12:39). It’s because of this they started celebrating the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.
All this yeastless celebration had a purpose, of course. Like pretty much everything in the Old Testament, it points to Jesus. I really don’t think God just thought it was funny to deprive the Israelites of risen bread sometimes. He made a point.
Jesus is the Bread of Life! He is the only person to ever be without yeast–sin. Unlike the rest of us, He wasn’t infected with the desire of go against the ways and will of God. He didn’t spend His life trying to force down the yeast, battling the rising of our flesh-bread.
One time, He did feel the yeast, though. He was buried in it willingly.
But oh, then, did He ever rise. And not because of the yeast. Out of it. Doing what we never could: severing from the yeast completely, not letting it penetrate one cell of His divine body.
It makes it a little easier to see why God has such a distaste for the leaven.
This is day 8 of my 31 Days of The Book series. Start at day 1 here.
A few weeks ago, I pulled a cookbook off my shelf, searching for a bread recipe. I’ve been baking up bread at least once a week to feed my kiddos and the bachelor who lives downstairs.
I love bread-baking, in case I haven’t mentioned that a time or twenty. I love the smell of the yeast, the ingredients learning to cling together. The rising dough. A soft, brown crust.
I’ve mostly been making white bread lately, with a cup or two of whole-wheat flour thrown in. Even though it makes me cringe, it’s just so much easier than fussing with whole-wheat bread. The whole-wheat recipe I’d fallen back on time and time again required soaking of grains, 10-20 minutes with my mixer, and a bread that tasted like honey to me. (I’m just not a huge fan of most honeys, and although I use it I don’t want the taste to be overwhelming.)
So anyway, I made a recipe for simple bread loaves from Food That Says Welcome, a great little paperback cookbook from Barbara Smith—Michael W. Smith’s mom! It was the puffiest, softest bread I’d ever made. I lovingly called it “pillow bread” and gave the recipe a big star. But … I wanted to make it a whole-wheat bread, since white flour has basically no nutritional value.
I’ve decided the key to this puffy bread is triple rising. Yep, you heard me. Yes, that adds additional time to bread-baking, which is already a lengthy process. But it’s totally worth it. And, as this recipe shows, it can even make 100% whole wheat bread soft and puffy. I’ve NEVER had a 100% whole wheat bread that wasn’t dense.
So, whole foodies, your problems are solved. Make this bread. Listen to the rave reviews. Smile because you know the secret. And if you’re feeling generous, share the recipe.
This recipe can be made either in a stand mixer with dough hooks or mixed by hand. Because there is not a lot of kneading, it’s not too bad to do by hand.
Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over it. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter over low heat. Add honey and sugar and stir together. Let cool slightly – it’s OK if it’s warm, but not hot.
Add butter mixture, salt, and remaining 2 cups water to the yeast and water in the bowl and stir well to combine.
One cup at a time, add in flour and stir until it’s combined. When done, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until all the flour is worked into the dough. [Or, use speed 2 on your mixer with dough hooks.]
Cover bowl with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and then let rise again, about another 45 minutes to an hour.
Separate dough into two equal balls. Press each ball into a rectangle with floured hands, roll up lengthwise, and then tuck ends under. Place loaves in greased loaf pans.
Cover pans and let rise again 30 minutes, until dough is to the top of the pans.
Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and sound a little hollow when you tap on them. Let loaves cool completely before slicing and serving.
Drain potato, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Mash the potato in a small bowl and let cool slightly.
Cream butter, sugar, salt, and egg in an electric mixer. Add potato and mix well.
Dissolve yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water. Add to potato mixture.
Change beaters to dough hooks, if you have them. Set mixer to 2. Add 2 cups whole wheat flour alternately with the 1 cup cooking liquid, mixing well after each addition. Gradually add in the remaining flour until the dough starts to clean the side of the bowl. When that happens, let mixer go an additional 2 minutes.
If your dough looks a little shiny, great! You’re ready. If not, you may need to knead it for a few additional minutes. (I have a Sunbeam Mixer, which is not quite as hardcore as a KitchenAid and sometimes I think it’s going to explode before the bread is really ready.)
Place the dough in a greased bowl and put somewhere warm. Cover with a damp towel. Let rise for an hour or until dough is doubled.
Punch dough down; divide in half. Shape into loaves. (I sort of push it into a rectangle, roll it up, and then tuck in the ends.) Place in two greased loaf pans. Cover with the towel again and let rise another 30-45 minutes or until doubled again.
Brush dough with melted butter. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.
And then, in your best Julia Child voice, say, “Bon Appetit!”