Braided bread 2.0

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When I stumbled upon Google books for the first time, I thought it was a dumb idea because I could get free recipes without having to buy books. How are the authors of these books supposed to make any money I thought. However, after spending hours thumbing through cookbook samples just on a search for sourdough, I found my Amazon wish list growing by a bit more than I wanted it to. Therefore, I have decided Google books is an evil and effective marketing tool! Do not. I repeat. Do not go to Google books. You’ll be sorry!

One book that made its way from my Google search to my Amazon wish list to my home (in less than a week) was an amazing book published in the 80’s called Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas. This unassuming cookbook has no photographs besides the one on the cover. It is filled, instead, cover to cover with recipes and practical bread baking advice. An inventive baker, Mrs. Ojakangas was baking no knead breads back in the 80s long before the craze hit the Internet (and long before the Internet).

The book is not heavy on purely whole grain bread. Most recipes include a mixture of white flour as well as whole grains in order to give the breads a lighter texture. Being of Finnish extraction, the author knows her rye breads and includes many variations on rye. As well as traditional loaves there are many interesting and quirky recipes such as stir and pour breads which are even simpler than the no knead bread recipes she also provides. There are vegetable breads, cheese breads, fruited breads and coffee breads. Since the book relies on small charming illustrations instead of photos, it is packed cover to cover with recipes.

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After reading the book as if it were a novel and placing book marks on dozens of recipes, I became obsessed with a recipe that appears in the photo on the cover. It is for Wheat Germ and Sesame Six-Strand Bread. I don’t own commercial yeast but I do own a sometimes temperamental sourdough starter which I stubbornly insist on baking all of my bread with. If you have been following my blog, you already know that I screwed up this recipe last week. Although it was under proofed the flavor was really good and we ate the bread anyway. I decided it was worth it to try again. This week I got it right. I added an extra half cup of starter and let the bread rise all day. The bread was perfect. It was not light and airy like the challah it resembles. The inner texture of the bread was soft more like a multigrain sandwich bread. The crust was crisp and then…there is the outer layer of wheat germ and sesame, nutty and crunchy. Just delicious! The bread was good on its own, but we enjoyed it with olive oil for dipping, salad with a homemade creamy balsamic dressing and chicken that was roasted with olive oil and lemons. This bread was the perfect bread to dip in oil, in salad dressing and in the pan juices from the chicken. It melded perfectly with anything fatty. It is a gorgeous bread for enjoying with food.

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After succeeding with this bread, I am now very excited to keep exploring this book. I have way too many cookbooks but I don’t feel bad about adding this one to my collection. It is the kind of book that will be used constantly and I predict it will become dog eared in a few months. If you love to bake bread, I seriously recommend this book to you.

I’m sending this bread off to YeastSpotting. Please click on the link to see other wonderful bread baking adventures.

Wheat Germ and Sesame Six-Strand Braid

Adapted for sourdough from Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 ½ cups active sourdough starter

½ cup room temperature water

1 tbsp evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups + 2 tsp (if needed) unbleached white flour

Glaze:

1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tbsp water

¼ cup (or more) wheat germ

2 tbsp (or more) sesame seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine starter, water and sugar. Let stand a few minutes. Mix in beaten egg, butter and salt. Mix in whole wheat and 2 cups of white flour gradually. Mix with a rubber spatula until a dough forms. Cover and let the dough rest 15 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a board and begin to knead. The dough should be stiff and not very sticky. I needed to add a little more flour to get to this consistency. Add more unbleached white flour one teaspoon at a time until you get a stiffer dough. Continue to knead the dough for up to ten minutes until it is soft and springy. You should be able to stretch it without breaking it (window pane test). Let the dough rest while you wash, dry and oil the mixing bowl. Return the dough to the bowl, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled (about three hours on a cool day).

Turn the dough out onto a board and divide it into six equal parts (I weighed the dough to make sure each part was roughly the same). Roll each piece into a strand about 12 inches long by rolling between the palms of your hand and the board. Mix wheat germ and sesame seeds in a bowl Brush a dough strand with the egg yolk mixture and then sprinkle 1/6 of the wheat germ mixture onto the board and roll the dough in the wheat germ mixture to coat. Repeat for the remaining 5 strands.

To shape: Line up the six strands side by side. Start with the right outer strand. Pick up the strand and weave it under and over each successive strand until it ends up on the very far left side of the braid. Repeat, always starting with the far right strand, weaving under and then over each strand until it ends up on the left side. When you are done, pinch the braids down on the end of each loaf and compress the loaf lengthwise with both hands gently to make a long narrow loaf. Place a sheet of parchment onto a peel and dust it with corn meal. Gently transfer the loaf to the prepared peel. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise until doubled (3 to 4 hours in a cool kitchen).

Place a baking stone in the oven 15 minutes before you want to bake. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer the loaf from the peel to the stone. It is ok if it sticks to the parchment. Bake the loaf for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Remove the parchment from the loaf and cool completely

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14 Comments

  1. savorysimple said,

    November 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Eventually I’ll get over my nerves and try this. Every time I watch a YouTube video of how to braid bread I’m left feeling confused. I just have to do it!

    Looks yummy.

    • Mimi said,

      November 5, 2009 at 6:37 pm

      Go for it! It is actually easier than it sounds. I got it close to right by the second loaf and even when it is wrong, it still looks pretty.

      I think it is one of those things where you need to get your hands dirty. I read the cookbook author’s instructions several times before I tried it, but the braid did not make sense until I actually had the dough in my hands and I could see it forming into a braid.

  2. Jeremy said,

    November 6, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I’m so glad you tried again. I will bookmark this for when I am next feeling adventurous, bearing in mind that I will have to convert your pesky volumes to weights.

    Is there any reason for doing each strand separately in the wheat-germ + sesame? I’d have thought braiding plain strands and then topping the finished braid would be easier.

    • Mimi said,

      November 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm

      Hi Jeremy,
      I think the recipe author did it this way for texture. The sesame seeds and wheat germ end up inside and outside of the loaf. It teally wasn’t that much more work to do the egg wash and roll the braids in the topping, but I think it was worth it!

  3. MC said,

    November 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I love that book too (I have owned if for years and years and often go back to it for inspiration). I should take a picture of my copy to send it to you. There are little flags everywhere! Your braided bread is absolutely stunning! Congratulations!

    • Mimi said,

      November 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm

      MC, that is so cool that you have the original copy of the book! I would love to see the old cover!

  4. Natashya said,

    November 6, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    People thought the same thing about food bloggers and recipes – who would buy the books? The truth is, all book sales are down because of the recession. EXCEPT cookbooks – the sales are way up! I think we can all give ourselves a pat on the back… :)
    I love her books and have recently picked up Whole Grain Breads.
    Your loaf looks beautiful!

    • Mimi said,

      November 6, 2009 at 3:33 pm

      Good point! I think we are doing a little bit of marketing when we blog. In a way, blogging about what we cook is a little like a recommendation for the cookbooks we are cooking from.

  5. drfugawe said,

    November 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve always loved Beatrice Ojakangas’s stuff – solid good! But this baby is intimidating! Don’t know if I’m ready for the challenge – I kind’a buy into “if it tastes good, the looks are not important”. But it is pretty – nice job.

    • Mimi said,

      November 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

      I think you should try it. It wasn’t as hard as it looks. I just screwed it up the first time because I don’t follow the recipe. :grin:

  6. Andreas said,

    November 6, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Glad you found your baking moyo again.
    That’s really a beautiful loaf.

    • Mimi said,

      November 6, 2009 at 11:09 pm

      Thank you Andreas!

  7. Laura said,

    November 21, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I just fed my starter so I want to try this recipe and the seed cracker recipe, they look so tasty. Love your blog, and got here through Yeastspotting.

    Keep on bakin’!

  8. Laura said,

    November 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I just made the dough and I had to add 1/2 cup of water, and I didn’t use all the flour. My starter is a stiff starter, I wonder if that is the problem.


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