As a child, my family would drive to the post office and pass a bread factory, where the scents of fresh bread engulfed the air. Nothing says the holidays are near like the aroma of fresh bread baking in the kitchen.
Below is a simple bread recipe that is beautiful to enjoy with friends or as a holiday bread.
Tips on Yeast: I used active dry yeast in this recipe, which requires letting the yeast rise.
Tips on proofing: Cover the dough with cling wrap and not a towel to keep a hard skin from forming on the dough. The dough should double in size for the first proof. When proofing the second time, the dough is ready when you gently push, and your finger shape stays in place, and it does not pop out.
1 ¾ cups of bread flour (Measure your flour by spooning flour into measuring cup and do not pack into a cup. Use a knife to level off extra flour.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
¼ cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 package of Active Dry Yeast (Not Rapid Rise or Instant Yeast)
½ cup of lukewarm water
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra for the bowl)
Place flour and sea salt in a mixer with a dough hook.
Place sugar and ¼ cup of water in a glass measuring cup and stir until sugar dissolves. Then, add one package of yeast. Stir. Let the yeast mixture sit for five to fifteen minutes. Yeast is ready when it has doubled in size, and it has risen to the half cup measurement. Add to flour mixture with another half a cup of warm water and one tablespoon of olive oil.
Start the mixer on a slow mixing speed, so you don’t flour the kitchen, then as all ingredients incorporate, turn the mixer up to medium. Stop the mixer every so often to push the flour into the wet ingredients. When the mixture is elastic, it will look like the photo below. It takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes mixing.
Then take a dab of olive oil and spread around the inside of a large bowl. Place the dough into a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Use cling wrap to keep the dough from developing a skin. Place the dough in a warm spot to proof for two hours or until the dough has doubled in size. My microwave is above the oven, and I let the oven warm-up and then turn it off. My microwave is lightly warm, NOT HOT, and I like to use it to proof bread. Do not turn the microwave on, or proof dough in a hot oven.
When the dough has doubled in size, place on a lightly floured surface, I use a clean kitchen towel, sprinkled with flour. Cut the dough into three equal sections. Roll each piece of dough to 20 – 24 inches. Then pinch all three together. Braid the dough like you would braid hair. Place olive oil on the outside of an oven friendly dipping bowl and use it for the center. Gently place the dough around the bowl and pinch the dough together on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with cling wrap and proof the dough a second time for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place a pan filled half-way with warm water on the bottom shelf of your oven. Read why to do it here and the science of steam in bread baking.
Leave the dipping bowl in the dough and bake for 30 minutes. Take the dipping bowl out after 30 minutes and continue to bake bread for another 10 minutes after the bowl is removed.
When serving bread, place a dipping bowl in the center of the bread wreath filled with apple cranberry chutney or herbed vegan butter.
Compassion always! Sending you love and light.