What's Baking: Very Seedy Braided Bread

Cooking confession time: Yeast breads intimidate me. There, I said it. And, seriously, I mean it -- what with all that rising and kneading -- yeast breads just seem way too high-maintenance for me. However, after Cassie at back to her roots posted a recipe for a gorgeous-looking braided seed bread, I knew I would have to give it a try. And okay, so maybe my decision to try out this bread recipe was also prodded by the fact that I had recently purchased a ginormous package of whole wheat flour on accident. And the additional fact that I had a bunch of less-than-half-full jars of various seeds and grains in our pantry. Or maybe the fact that I already had the right ingredients on hand was the universe telling me it was about time that I sucked it up and tried my hand at making a yeast bread from scratch.

And, to be honest, it wasn't quite as hard as I thought it'd be. Yes, a yeast bread takes way longer than an simple quick bread (I mean, they're called quick breads for a reason, obvs) -- but all that waiting (and kneading in between) was worth it in the end. The resulting braided loaf of bread is chock-full of seedy and grainy goodness, but it is in no way dense or heavy. The one downside to this recipe is that it makes a ginormous loaf of bread; when I make this next time (and there will be a next time), I'll probably make two small loaves rather than one ginormo loaf.

However, with all that said, I have to admit that I'm not going to switch from making quick breads to solely yeast breads anytime soon. But ... when time allows (say, on a cold, snowy day such as the one we're currently experiencing ... even though, last time I checked we were well into the month of April ... don't get me started on that), I think I'll definitely take the time to bake another yeast bread from scratch.

Very Seedy Braided Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes 1 loaf

2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup uncooked grains (I used a combination of millet, wheat berries, and bulgur)
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/4 cup dry nonfat milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 cup mixed seeds and grains (I used a combination of oats, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and poppy seeds)

1. In a large bowl, add together the water, oil, flour, grains, rolled oats, salt, honey, dry milk, and yeast. Use a wooden spoon to stir together the dough until it is thoroughly combined.
2. Move the dough to a floured work surface and knead it for 5-7 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
3. Spray a medium-to-large bowl with a generous amount of cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm area (I placed it on the hearth of our fireplace, which had a fire going at the time, since our house is perpetually cold) for about an hour and a half, or until the dough has nearly doubled in size.
4. Punch down the dough and then place it on a floured work surface. Cut the dough into three evenly-sized pieces. Roll each piece until it forms a log about 24-inches in length.
5. Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush each dough log with the egg wash, sprinkling it with the seed/grain mixture as you go. Repeat on the other side of the log, and continue until each side is completely covered in seeds.
6. Gently squeeze the three logs together at one end. Braid the logs into a triple-stranded bread. Tuck the ends under.
7. Move the braided dough onto a baking sheet covered with a silpat or parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for an additional hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
9. Bake the bread in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the bread is very brown and a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean.
10. Let cool completely on a wire rack; tightly wrap any leftover bread in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

 (adapted from this back to her roots recipe)