I’m really in to braids right now. Yep, braids. I haven’t had a haircut in about 7 months and my hair is getting long and unruly. I’m reluctant/too lazy/afraid to find a new hair salon so I’m rocking a braid. I’ve even been watching YouTube tutorials to discover new styles and then I take pictures and send them to my friend Anna in the US. I’m super cool, I know.
But my most impressive braid is this bread!! I am so absolutely proud of it and I’m excited to share it with you. I got this recipe from The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake. I might have mentioned it before, but I’ve become a big fan of the TV show The Great British Bake Off. After every episode I always want to get in the kitchen and make something. So recently I went to the library and checked out the book and went on a baking spree trying out all kinds of things – and the more
complicated the better.
This bread is just beautiful to look at and so hearty and tasty. The nuts give it a good crunch, the apricots add sweetness, and the whole wheat makes you feel you’re doing something good for yourself. I don’t have a lot of experience with bread, and this came out really nice, so don’t feel intimidated if you choose to try it. I do have two recommendations though.
First, the recipe called for putting a milk wash on the dough before baking it, presumably to make it shiny. Next time, I wouldn’t do this. It makes the bread get dark more quickly and made me nervous about whether the bread was burnt or done or what. Also, I’d knead the dough by hand. I used my mixer and with a mixer it is easy to over work the dough. And, since I don’t have a lot of experience with bread, I don’t have an eye for it, and wasn’t entirely sure when it was sufficiently kneaded. Luckily, I didn’t over work it. But in summation, until I’m an expert bread maker I intend to knead by hand so I can learn it by look and feel.
And now behold my beautiful bread braid. Adapted from The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake. Please note that the measurements in grams are most accurate and for bread that is important. Go with those if you can! The measurements in ounces are my converted approximations.
100g/3.5oz/.4 cup hazelnuts (If you can buy some skins off then you can skip the first few steps)
500g/17.6 oz/4 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes, crushed
7g/.25 oz/1.2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
300ml/1 1/4 cups/10.5 oz lukewarm milk
100g/3.5oz/.4 cup dried apricots
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
2. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the skins darken.
3. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven. Turn the oven off. Wrap them hazelnuts in a dishtowel and leave them to steam for 1 minute. Rub the hazelnuts in the dishtowel to rub the skins off.
5. Cut the apricots in quarters. This is easiest to do with kitchen scissors.
7. Mix the honey into the milk.
8. Pour the honey-milk into the flour well.
9. Using your hand, or the dough hook on low on your mixer, mix the flour and milk until you have a soft dough. If it feels dry and there are lots of crumbs, add a little more milk one tablespoon at a time. If it is very wet and sticky, add a little more flour one tablespoon at a time.
10. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes. Or knead for 4 minutes using the dough hook on low on your mixer. The dough is ready when it feels very elastic. This can be hard to tell because whole wheat can get firm as it is worked. You want to be able to pull the dough apart and have it stretch a little like putty – not just rip in half.
11. Add the hazelnuts and apricots. Gently work into the dough until evenly distributed. It will seem like too much nuts and apricots but it isn’t. As the dough rises later it will all work out.
12. Put the dough back into the large mixing bowl (so long as it isn’t all dirty). Cover with plastic wrap. Leave it to rise in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in size. It might take longer than an hour if your kitchen is cool.
13. Punch down the dough and then put it on a floured work surface. Divide into three equal portions (I did this on a scale).
14. Using your hand, roll each third of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long.
15. Pinch one end of each strand together. Then neatly braid the three strands. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under.
16. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put the braided dough on the baking sheet.
18. Towards the end of rising time, heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
19. Uncover the loaf and bake for 30 minutes. It is done when it is darker brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap/knock on the underside.
20. Cool on a wire rack. Then cut and serve!
Messy level: Overall, this isn’t too messy of a recipe. The dough is easy to work with and doesn’t stick too much. But, getting the skin off of hazelnuts is frustratingly messy. No matter how hard the skins get all over the towel, the counter, and on the floor as I try to put the skins in the trashcan. Also, flouring the counter repeatedly led to a lot of scrubbing from me. Still, you won’t have a lot of dishes or anything at the end so that is pretty nice.