For a delicious twist on normal bread baking, this week I’m making a Sweet Bread Braid. This is a rich egg bread with a sweet taste. It has an impressive appearance for holidays and parties and is delicious as an everyday treat. So far this is my husband’s favorite bread recipe, it is always the one he asks for. It is so rich and sweet for a savory bread recipe, that I usually skip the butter and eat this one plain. The braid is so much fun to make and gives such a fancy appearance with little actual effort.
In Jewish Traditions the braided bread is called Challah and each strand has meaning. They are made for festivals to symbolize love and unity among other things. This bread came to be used at Passover to symbolize manna from heaven and was modeled off of decorative German sweet breads. Braided bread has a long history and tradition and has been used as symbolism and decoration for centuries.
To make this bread, start with 1/3 cup Warm Water. Around 110 degrees in ideal, but I find that letting the hot water run from the faucet for a few seconds usually give me just the right temperature, without having to use a thermometer. Add in 2-1/4 teaspoons Yeast or 1 Yeast Packet and stir. Let this rise in a warm place for about 5 minutes to proof or activate the yeast. If you don’t see any change in a few minutes, try sprinkling a pinch of sugar in with the yeast.
While the yeast is proofing, mix 1-1/2 cup Flour, ¼ cup Sugar, and 1 teaspoon Salt together in a large bowl. Add to this 1 beaten Egg, 2/3 cup Warm Water, 2 tablespoons Oil, 2 tablespoons Honey, and the proofed yeast mixture, which should be bubbly. When these are thoroughly combined, add in 1-1/2 to 2 cups of Flour, a little at a time. When you can mix in no more flour, pour the rest on a clean surface and turn the dough out to knead.
Kneading and Braiding
To knead the dough, sprinkle it with flour and form it into a ball. Press this ball down, reform it, and turn it over to repeat. If the dough starts to stick to your hands or the surface sprinkle more flour over it. Knead about 5 minutes or until dough is tacky but not sticky on the outside. Then place the dough into a clean, greased bowl and turn to coat the outside. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour.
After an hour the dough should be about double in size. Press down into the center with your fist to deflate, and turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into three even sections and roll each section out into a log of approximately the same length. Lay the lengths of dough next to each other in three straight lines, just touching. Gently braid the lengths of dough together, being careful not to stretch or smash the dough. Tuck each end of the braid slightly underneath and press them gently together to seal.
Place dough on a greased baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise 1 hour, then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Brush with melted butter and serve!
Sweet Bread Braid
3 to 3-1/2 cups Flour
1 cup Warm Water
2-1/2 teaspoons Yeast
¼ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Egg, beaten
2 tablespoon Oil
2 tablespoon Honey
Proof Yeast in 1/3 cup of the Warm Water. Mix 1-1/2 cup of the Flour, ¼ cup Sugar and 1 teaspoon Salt. Add in the remaining Warm Water, proofed Yeast, Egg, Oil, and Honey. Slowly stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a firm dough. Turn the dough out on a well floured surface and knead about 5 minutes until dough is tacky but not sticky. Place in a greased bowl and turn to coat. Let rise in a warm place 1 hour. When dough is about doubled in size, push down with your fist to deflate and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into three even pieces and roll into strands of equal length. Place strands side by side and braid together gently. Press ends lightly together and tuck under to hold. Place dough on a greased baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise 1 hour in a warm place, and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Brush with butter and serve!
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