Making bread isn’t hard. You just have to factor in the time it takes for everything to rise. If you’ve never made bread before, this recipe is a great one to start with. Similar to challah bread, we call this “Braided Bread” at our house. And it’s become a weekly staple. Get it started in the afternoon while the kids are napping and enjoy it that night with soup or salad.
If you have a KitchenAid mixer (or other brand) the process is even easier because the machine kneads the bread for you. Dreamy. But if you don’t have a mixer, no worries! Good old-fashioned kneading with your hands is perfect (and it’s a good workout too).
This bread is best fresh from the oven or at least the day it’s baked. Once it cools completely, store it in a zipper-sealed bag and it’s usually good for another day. After that, it tends to dry out. So take the kids to the park and feed it to the ducks!
The best method if you want to have this for breakfast (so that you’re not kneading at 5am):
Make it the night before, bake the loaves, let them cool, and keep them in zipper-sealed bag. Wrap them as much as you like to keep the air from getting in. In the morning, wrap the loaves in a bit of foil and warm them in the oven for a few minutes. I did this once for a baby shower and it was perfect! Still fresh, soft, and tasty.
Okay, let’s get started.
(additional instructions at the end for making a Cinnamon Loaf)
Makes 2 loaves
¼ cup warm water
2½ tsp yeast (or one yeast packet)
1 Tbl sugar
1 cup hot water
1 tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbl butter
2½ cups flour
1¾ – 2 cups more flour
In a drinking glass or bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Set it aside for about 10 min to wake up and get foamy.
In your mixer, combine the hot water, salt, sugar, and butter. Mix. Once the yeast is ready, add 2½ cups flour, the egg, and the yeast. Mix all together (using your mixing paddle arm).
Add 1¾ cups more flour and mix until a ball forms. If the dough is still too soft or sticky, add more flour until the dough feels like squishy play-dough. Take the paddle arm off your mixer and put the hook arm on. Turn mixer on to the number “2” setting (if you have a KitchenAid) and let machine knead the dough for 7 minutes, OR knead the dough by hand for 5-6 minutes on a hard surface.
Spray a large clean bowl with cooking spray. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with a cloth to keep from drying out. Place the bowl in a warm place (like the oven with just the light turned on). A good trick my mom taught me is to turn on your oven for just 10 seconds to let it warm up. Then turn it off and put your dough in there to rise. Don’t let the oven heat for too long though, or it will bake your dough (rather than helping it rise). Just a few seconds is all you need to get it warm in there.
Let the dough rise for a couple hours.
Punch the dough down and let it rest for 10 minutes. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Using a knife, divide the dough in half. Starting with the first ball of dough, divide it into three pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 14 inches long.
Pinch the 3 ropes together at the top, braid the ropes, and pinch the ropes together at the end:
Squish the braid together slightly and place the braid onto the prepared cookie sheet, sideways. Repeat with the other ball of dough and place on the same sheet.
Using a fork, whisk together one egg and 1 Tbl water until well combined (also known as an egg wash). Paint the egg wash over the tops and sides of the braids.
Cover cookie sheet with a cloth and let rise for about an hour.
Heat the oven to 350º (remove the rising braids before heating the oven!).
Bake for 14-18 minutes or just till they start turning golden brown. Let the bread sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with butter and fresh jam. Enjoy!
For CINNAMON BREAD
(This is for 1 loaf)
When I make Braided Bread, it’s fun to turn one of the loaves into Cinnamon Bread. It’s okay to have dessert for dinner, right?
For the Cinnamon Loaf, divide the dough into 3rds (just like you did above) and roll each rope out kinda long and flat (and not too wide) with a rolling pin. Spread each flat rope with cinnamon filling (recipe below) then pinch the whole thing together so it makes a long rope, with the cinnamon sugar hidden inside. Try to keep all the cinnamon sugar inside so it doesn’t spill out while cooking. Some of it still will, but do your best. Lastly, braid the 3 ropes together. Place it on the same baking sheet with your other loaf.
1 Tbl butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
2½ tsp cinnamon
(melt the butter in the microwave then add sugar and cinnamon and mix together)