In honor of bread, on this World Bread Day, we braided up seed-stippled, squashy, doughy ropes to make lovely plait-like loaves, which, when toasted and slathered with soft swirls of butter and our popular Red Hot Pepper Jelly, took us right back to the family-owned bakery in our hometown in India, where eager early birds stood in line to get a whiff of what mornings are made of. Bread may have come a long way since its earliest manifestations, about 30000 years ago, in floury loaves of ground cereals and water, but no one can steal from its star status as the quintessential breakfast centuries hence, whether in white, wheat, whole grain, oats, cinnamon, or honey-nut form. Even on days that don’t allow for much moving or shaking in the kitchen, the hands invariably reach for the toaster, as if the flu that plagues one or the world’s problems that hang like a dark cloud above one’s head will let up once a crisped-up slice of bread has been devoured and washed down with a warm cuppa. To this insatiable hankering after the yeasty, brown-rimmed bulks, we toast our seeded braids, with deep-seated love.
(Makes 2 Loaves)
For the dough –
- 1¼ Cup lukewarm water
- 2 Tablespoons butter, very soft or melted
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ Cups whole-wheat flour
- ½ Cup quick-cooking oats
- 1½ Teaspoons salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- ¼ Cup powdered milk
- 2¼ Teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ Cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ Cup cracked flaxseeds
- ¼ Cup milk or cream or beaten egg white
- 2/3 Cup seeds including – ½ Teaspoon cumin, 2 Teaspoons each fennel, flax and nigella/kalonji and the rest sesame seeds and poppy seeds.
Dissolve the active dry yeast in the warm water along with 2 pinches of sugar and wait for it to froth up. Place all the remaining dough ingredients, except the walnuts and cracked flax in a large bowl. Pour in the yeast/water and mix well with a sturdy wooden spoon. Cover the shaggy mass and allow it to rest for 15 minutes, this will hydrate the flours and give a head start to the kneading.
Now knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, adding a little more water if the dough is too dry. While kneading, grab and fold the dough over and push away with the heel of your hand, turn and repeat. The dough should become smoother and bounce back slightly when prodded. Finally knead in the walnuts and cracked flax. Roll the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let it rise for 1 hour.
Note – The dough should not be too loose else the loaves will bake up flat.
Mix together all the seeds in a small container and set aside.
Clean a large work surface and place the dough on it. Gently deflate the dough and roll it into a ball. Divide the ball into 6 equal parts by cutting in half and then each half into thirds.
Roll each part into a rope, about 15″ long. Brush each rope with the milk and sprinkle some of the seeds all over it. Keep turning it, brushing with milk and adding more seeds until the rope is coated with seeds all over. Repeat with the remaining ropes. Allow the ropes to rest for about 15 minutes.
To braid the loaves, take 3 of the ropes and pinch them together at one end. Braid, bringing the outer rope over the middle and pinch and tuck the ends under when you are done. Repeat with the other 3 ropes. Scrape up whatever seeds are left on the work space. Brush the top of the loaves with more milk and sprinkle the remaining seeds. Transfer the braids carefully to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover lightly and let rise for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C.
Spritz the loaves with water and bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350°F/180°C and bake for another 15 minutes or until the loaves are golden and the internal temperature is at least 190°F/88°C.
Cool the loaves on a wire rack before slicing. You can just make out the swirl of seeds inside the braid and each slice will have an interesting shape. Eat toasted for breakfast with butter and jam or serve alongside hot soup.
Adapted from here – Crunchy Seed Braid