There are few pleasures able to compare with that of baking yeast breads from scratch. It is an experience that is visual, tactile, creative, therapeutic… and highly satisfying! While I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of a dough hook I must secretly admit that I always finish the last minute or so of kneading on a lightly floured board in order to become personally “attached” to this wonderful living organism as it grows from inception. I learned from my mother many years ago that a perfect loaf is achieved when the dough is kneaded to the point that it “feels” right. That observation is, by all means, subjective but, having baked bread for many years, I fully understand her words. Bread dough should be smooth, velvety and not too dry and “heavy” with excess flour. This particular dough is an absolute joy with which to work. Rich in butter, eggs and milk it does have the softness of a baby’s butt!
This loaf is spectacular in presentation! With its double braid and glossy seed-studded crust it tends to draw delighted oohs and ahhs when brought to the table… a genuine feast for the eyes!
Double Egg Braid
To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle add:
2 C all-purpose flour
4-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 T sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric (for color)
Mix on low speed to combine. Add:
1 C whole milk, warmed (110° – 115°)
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs + 1 yolk, room temperature
Continue mixing on low till ingredients are incorporated then increase mixer speed to high and beat for 3 minutes. Exchange the paddle for a dough hook and, with the mixer on low speed add an additional:
2-3/4 C flour
Knead with the dough hook for 5 – 6 minutes, adding an additional tablespoon or two of flour if necessary.
Baker’s Note: The dough is of the right consistency to be transferred to a work surface when it has pulled from the sides of the bowl. There should, however, continue to be a slight amount of sticking to the very bottom of the bowl. A final assessment regarding additional flour can be made as the dough is kneaded for several turns before being placed in a greased bowl to rise.
Flour the work surface sparingly then transfer the dough utilizing a dough scraper:
Knead the dough with a push-turn-fold motion several times until the dough is smooth and silky. Transfer to a buttered bowl, cover with film and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour:
Transfer to the work surface, punch down then divide the dough into two pieces, one of them 2/3 of the total amount with the second being 1/3:
Set the smaller piece to the side and divide the larger into 3 equal portions. Utilizing the fingers of both hands roll each of the three portions into a 16-inch roll,working from the center of the roll to the ends:
Place the three rolls side by side lengthwise on a baking sheet lined with parchment and braid together, beginning at the center, braiding first to one end, then to the other:
Seal the ends by pinching them together with your fingertips and tucking under the loaf. For the glaze whisk together and set aside:
1 large egg
1 T water
Divide the remaining dough into three pieces and shape, roll and braid them in the same way as the first. Brush the top center of the large braid with egg wash and place the smaller second braid on top:
Cover with a dry kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400°. When the loaf has risen, thoroughly brush the entire surface with egg wash and sprinkle with:
Bake in the preheated 400° oven for 20 minutes at which time the bread will be golden brown:
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This loaf is at its glorious best when eaten the day it is baked… golden and crusty on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. And, by the way, the loaf makes delicious toast on following days, spread with sweet cream butter and your favorite jam or jelly… Bon Appetit!
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