My teenage son doesn't ask for much in the way of food. Lately he has been extremely satisfied with Trader Joe's Black Bean & Chicken Burritos and Rolled Chicken Tacos. However, holiday time brings out a special request for his favorite Golden Bread Braid!
My gushingly positive notes show that this bread first made its appearance on our Thanksgiving table in 2001 and it has been a guest ever since. Words like, "Excellent" and "Best Ever" have been written by myself as well as family and friends who have enjoyed this tender loaf with us. My favorite note though is written in crayon by my then 6 year old son reading, "Mom, I love it!".
Asking everyone in the family what they would like for our holiday meal I had requests for varying items, but my son just looked at me and said, "You know what I want.". Our challenge this year, with his recent intolerance to lactose, is to make this recipe without the called for milk and butter so he can enjoy to his heart's content.
Our first experiment with a butter alternative and soy milk proved to be the only experiment we needed! A heavenly scent permeated the house as our loaves baked away, and the same soft, tender crumb that we have come to expect was present as we buttered our warm slices. The first loaf lasted all of 10 minutes with all of us reaching for seconds and thirds as dinner was getting to the table.
Simply tossing 1/2 of a recipe in the bread machine on the dough cycle makes getting this bread onto the table easy. Removing the dough and shaping it into the lovely braid makes it look like it's not so easy! Best the day it is made, but it is still possible to make the bread a day earlier and reheat for wonderful, nearly fresh from the oven results. Left overs make wonderful toast, or even a tasty French Toast.
Golden Bread Braid
1 Tbs active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup milk (use milk alternative for dairy free version - we used low fat organic soy) *
3 Tbs butter (I used Earth Balance dairy free butter alternative) *
2 1/2 Tbs sugar *
1 Tbs (scant!) salt
2 eggs *
6-7 cups Bread flour
egg white mixed with 1 Tbs water for brushing
golden sesame seeds for sprinkling
semolina flour for dusting the baking sheet (may use cooking spray)
In the bowl of a stand mixer dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the milk, butter, sugar, salt, 2 eggs and 1 cup of flour. Beat until smooth. Switching to bread hook, add flour one cup at a time, and then in smaller amounts as the dough comes together, beat in enough of the flour to form a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl as it kneads. Allow the dough to knead on the bread hook for about 6 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Dust a cooking sheet liberally with semolina flour, or alternatively spray with cooking spray.
Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover. Place in a warm spot until dough has doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide in half, then divide each half portion into thirds. Shape each piece into 12 inch long ropes. Pinch the ends to seal and braid the ropes. Pinch the other end to seal and carefully move to a semolina floured baking sheet. Tuck the ends under. Repeat with the remaining 3 ropes. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Beat egg white with 1 Tbs water and brush over the braids. Sprinkle with golden sesame seeds. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (checking at about 20 minutes) or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. Or dive right in and slice and butter!!!
*Note: for a richer loaf use whole milk, increase butter to 1/4 cup, sugar to 1/4 cup and use 3 eggs in the dough! You will need to add a bit more flour.
For Bread Machine:
Take 1/2 of the above recipe and place in your bread machine in the order directed. Adjust flour as necessary after the bread has processed for a few minutes. Proceed as above with shaping and baking directions.