Breaking Bread: A quick an easy sweet braided yeast bread.
Food and tradition are closely tied together for me. Every easter my grandmother would have our family assembled around her large dinner-table and serve us coloured eggs, bread, cold cuts and cheese. It is nothing fancy, but it is important to me. For me, this is the essence of easter (Well, it has been since I was told I was too old for a good old easter egg hunt…). It is the togetherness, the taking of time and nearly endless breakfasts that make me love this tradition so much. In my mind little is as traditional as braided yeast breads for easter. And quite frankly nothing is more delicious on days as cold as they are now (I have made peace with the fact that we are entering and endless winter). Have a go at this delicious braided yeast breads, with three of my favourite toppings: marzipan, poppy seeds or cinnamon.
White fields are running by to my left and right. The trees and bushes carry no leaves yet, but they put on their thin and fluffy snow-jackets to brush of the cold. A herd of deer is awkwardly tramping through the frozen snow, they raise their heads at the same time and stare at my train, I stare back at them. It’s nice to be inside, where it is warm and cozy. A few fields ahead, somewhere in the middle of no-where, there is a little creek with a small bridge, that seems to be more of a fashion statement than a necessity. There is a small murder of crows sitting on the bridge, staring at the babbling brook. „Winterbirds“, I say to my boyfriend and point at the little bridge, but by the time my finger touches the window, the murder, the creek and the bridge have passed by. He puts down his book and smiles.
Home, the place where I grew up, has its own special magic. The closer I get back to my parent’s house, built of wood and stone, the more at peace and calm I feel. I have talked about childhood memories before and the way I connect them with food. The pasta with tomato sauce that my mum used to make for us, when my sister and I were young, or brussel sprouts, that we only used to eat at Christmas, bring back the warm feelings of a happy childhood. But my brain sometimes, isn’t all that accurate. It doesn’t really care if the emotional flashback I’m experiencing upon eating something is connected to an experience that I actually had or if it’s just something that I saw someone have on TV. In this respect our brains are very non-judgemental, certain parts of our neuronal circuits, called mirror neurons, are active both when we act ourselves and when we see others perform the same action. It has been argued that mirror neurons might be responsible for what we call empathy, the ability to experience emotions of others as if they were ours. It is quite possible, that we actually do. At least our mirror neurons might.
So maybe it is the activity of my mirror neurons that makes me think of braided yeast breads as the quintessential food of my childhood. Because this is how I feel. But the truth of the matter is, my mum never baked them ( I’m at my parents place right now, and asked her, really… not even once). Still, whenever I do eat them I feel like I was a boy again and maybe that’s all that counts. Since my mum never made these herself, I had to rely on other peoples recipe’s. This dough recipe comes from the lovely Claudia Schmidt and is featured on her blog (the blog is in German, make sure to check her out for some seriously good food). I love to top my braided yeast breads with all kinds of things, but these three are my favourites: There is nothing better than a warm yeast bread with my marzinpan butter, poppy seed butter or the most amazing cinnamon butter.
Do you have a favourite childhood food? Or a memory connected to food? Please share in a comment below.
Making the dough
This recipe will yield about 6 handsized breads.
Flour (500 g) Milk (250 ml) Sugar (100 g) Butter (80 g) Yeast (1 packages á 6-7 g) Salt (three pinches) Egg (1) Yolk (1 for brushing) For the spreads: Poppy seeds Marzipan Butter Cinnamon Sugar
- Warm up the milk, mix in the sugar. Stick your index finger into the liquid, if you can so safely, add the yeast (Yeast thrives at about body temperature, however, it will be killed if overheated) and mix thoroughly.
- Add the flour, salt and egg and butter to a large bowl. Add the warm milk and work in. If you have one, let a mixing machine do the work for you. Mix either with a spoon and later your hands or a mixing machine until the dough is forming a ball. A good yeast-dough will not stick to the mixing bowl or your fingers. If it does, add some more flour.
- Put the dough on a clean and dry surface and begin kneading. Do this for about ten minutes. This will do two things: first, the gluten in your flour will make it more elastic and second, the yeast will have time to be distributed throughout the dough. The dough should be slightly yellow from the egg (which aids the stabile rising of the dough) and elastic and smooth (almost a silky texture).
- Put the ball of dough in a bowl and cover with a damp towel, leave to rest and rise at a warm place. Yeast feasts on sugar, which it either gathers from the flour or the added sugar, and produce carbon dioxide, which make s the dough rise. Yeast works best at warmer temperatures and likes humidity, the towel will thus aid the process. Leave to rise for about 30-45 minutes, by when the dough should have doubled in size.
- Cut the dough into 5-6 segments and work each individually. Cut each segment into three subsegments which will be our breads threads. Roll each of the segments until they are about as thick as your index finger (make sure to adjust if your index finger is particularly fat or thin).
- Line up the three threads next to each other. Superimpose the left thread over the middle thread, but not the right thread. Superimpose the right thread over the junction of the right and middle thread. Restart (Watch this lady do it on youtube). Leave to rise for another 10 minutes.
- Brush the bread with egg-wash (The yolk of an egg).Top the bread with your favourite spread and bake for about 15 minutes at 180°C.
Mix 1.5 to 2 parts of raw marzipan, which you can find at the baking aisle, with one part soft butter (I usually use about two to three tablespoons of butter). Add a bit of water if necessary to make it smoother. The mass should have the consistency of playdough. And spread over the bread. The spread should be smooth, so you might need to add a bit more butter if yours appears to be too coarse.
Poppy seed spread
If you have, crush 2 parts of poppy seeds in a mortar and add about 1 part soft butter and one part sugar (I use 1 tablespoon of sugar and butter, and 2-3 spoons of seeds). Spread over the bread. The spread should be smooth, so you might need to add a bit more butter if yours appears to be too coarse.
Mix 1 part sugar with about one part cinnamon (I love cinnamon, but you might want to use less) and add 1 part soft butter (again, about one 2 tablespoons of butter will do). If you like, a bit of nutmeg or chilli flakes might be nice. Mix well and spread on the bread. The spread should be smooth, so you might need to add a bit more butter if yours appears to be too coarse.
Enjoy. And happy easter, should you decide to celebrate this.