weaving it all together ::::
Well, that exam is over with (see last post on marbled pound cake). Summary of studying: I will never like taking exams and always feel demoralized afterwards. (And I was right about predicting if any questions in my subspecialty were on it: <<<<<<1%!) On to more interesting subjects….
Since I finished that terribleness earlier this week, I had a wide swath of ideas for creative cooking projects to get my mind off of it. That exam also had me in enough focus that I put off the blog’s anniversary — nothing’s stopped me doing that before.
The blog’s eighth anniversary was on Feb 1. I contemplated peanut butter cream cookies as comfort food. Bravetart‘s homemade Three Musketeer Bars sounded divine. A good, fat fruit pie seemed in order. Then I set myself on braided and woven yeast breads. All of these choices involved the anti-thesis of sitting over a book and practicing exam questions, a creative endeavor of shaping, working with my hands, and more than just dumping a bunch of ingredients into one pan and baking (“dump cakes”, I’m looking at you and your unfortunate name — not appetizing).
There are hundreds of sites on Pinterest that highlight multi-braid breads: sweet, savory, white, rye, herbed, cheesed, spiced. Some of my favorite sites are Russian, where the creativity of inventive loaves and rolls seems unending. While I can’t read the recipes, the photo pictorials are usually easy enough to follow.
Today’s bread choice represents my eight years here. There are eight dough strands to weave for each loaf, like the many experiences I’ve woven in the words of this blog and will continue to, connected and intertwined. There are periods of downtime when rising, waiting for growth, bubbling up with excitement when something new is happening. There is the overflowing of life, like when dough puffs to the top of the bowl in a warm, cozy kitchen. There are the periods of deflated disappointment, waiting to gather up and rise again for another try. There are times when life is painted with shiny coats of pretty whatever, sprinkled with the sting of salt. The fire ties it all together. The process nourishes us all. Let’s step out of the analogy and make some bread. The entire ingredient list and basic instructions are below the photos, though the photo tutorial on weaving is recommended.
First mix your ingredients, knead for 10 minutes, place dough ball in an oiled bowl, and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Doubled dough. The fun begins:
Knead again to smooth, using a little flour if sticky, and prepare to divide. This is your chance to weigh the dough. Mine was 1200g / 42 ounces / 2.3 pounds.
Break out a calculator and compute 1200 divided by 16. You’ll have more even pieces to work with in the braiding in the pieces are each about the same size
There should be 16 equal parts to make two loaves. Mine were each approximately 75g in weight.
The dough squiggles below remind me of an octopus. Connect eight strands at the top and arrange on a silicone mat or parchment paper. (It will make transfer of the finished woven loaf much easier.) Mentally number these strands 1 to 8, left to right.
Lift up strands 2, 4, 6, and 8.
Bring strand 1 across horizontally.
Fold the “up” strands down. Now, mentally re-number those strands. The former strand 2 is now strand 1, et cetera, to strand 8 which is horizontal in the below photo. It doesn’t have to stay horizontal, but I’m leaving it there for reference to what I just did. As you weave, careful how you pull the dough. If there is too much pulling, the strands will have different diameters and weave unevenly.
Flip the “up” strands down. You should see it taking shape. Continue this pattern. Rotate the loaf a bit to the left. The weaving is diagonal so the loaf will lengthen toward the right (southeast direction) in this picture.
Keep going to create this:
Braid the remaining eight strands to make the second loaf.
Two loaves, just finished:
Give them about 30 minutes in a warm kitchen and you’ll get puffiness. Paint with melted butter or olive oil, then sprinkle with your desired spices or dried herbs. I used salt and spicy, salty red pepper flakes. Here they are proofed, oiled, and salted:
The lovely topography:
Bake in the oven, rotating about halfway through so baking is fairly even between the loaves.
Here’s to another year blogging!
One year ago: blood orange pâte de fruit
Two years ago: I wrote a post about taking a break and hired Mui Tsun to redesign the site. WordPress guru! She is excellent.
Three years ago — This is one of my most memorable posts and really, really, fun to create : I wore a dress made from fresh brassica and allium greens.
Four years ago: pandan chiffon cake
Five years ago: polenta chips with rosemary and parmesan
Six years ago: mulled cider with homemade spice sachet
Seven years ago: cannellini bean, ricotta, chocolate torte
Eight years ago: the very first post – debutante cake
Here’s the recipe, based off of many. I will eventually get the Easy Recipe plug-in fixed and convert it.
Woven Yeast Bread – Makes 2 large loaves
Time: approx. 3-4 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
6 cups bread flour (120g = 1 cup, so you’ll need a total of 720g)
1 tablespoon rapid-rise dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups warm water (237ml = 1 cup, so you’ll need 474ml)
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter, plus more for painting the tops before baking
Sprinkles of dry herbs/spices of your choice — In the photos, I used a grainy pink salt and a salty hot pepper flake.
Put all of the ingredients in a big glass bowl, mix well, and knead for 10 minutes.
Allow to rise for 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap in a warm place. The dough will double in size.
Deflate the dough gently and knead for a few minutes to bring together and smooth. I recommend a kitchen scale for the next part, unless you are uniquely gifted in eyeballing sizes and weights really well. I weighed my dough after kneading and it equaled about 1200g. I’ve made this bread a few times and it’s +/- 10g in the final weight, which is fine.
My dough is around 1200g. Use a scale to weigh out 16 balls of dough approximately 75g each. Roll each of these balls into a dough strand 14 inches long.
*I recommend following the photo tutorial above for the best description of weaving.*
Choose 8 of the 16 strands and set up a workstation on parchment or a silicone mat for your first loaf. Join one end of each strand together, so the dough looks like an octopus. Mentally number each of these strands 1 to 8, going left to right. NOTE: Be gentle with how you pull the dough in weaving. You want the strands to remain similar in diameter so the design isn’t wonky. Some strands will shorten more than others as you weave them into shape — that’s okay. It works out in the end.
Lift up strands 2, 4, 6, and 8. Bring strand 1 over horizontally to the right.
Now fold the “up” strands down. Now, mentally re-number those strands. The former strand 2 is now strand 1, et cetera, to strand 8 (former strand 1). Got it?
Repeat the pattern: lift up the (new) strands 2, 4, 6, and 8. Bring strand 1 over horizontally to the right. Fold the “up” strands down. Re-number. Keep going with this pattern. Rotate the load to the left slightly as the weaving creates a diagonal weave. (See the photos to see what I mean.)
When complete, tuck the ends and pinch to seal (see photos). Transfer to baking pan. Cover each loaf with oiled plastic wrap and allow to proof 30 minutes or until puffy. While proofing, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
When proofed, drizzle each loaf with melted butter or olive oil, then sprinkle with your choice of dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pans, then bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.
Cool to warm before serving. This woven bread dries out quickly so it is best to eat within two days. It’s great when cut horizontally for sandwiches or toasted. Make croutons if it’s too far gone to toast. Look at the second half of this no-knead bread recipe for crouton prep: no-knead bread with pepitas.