Friday, May 29, 2009

Toasted Oat Egg Bread

There's nothing more satisfying than making a braided bread. No matter how bad the braided dough looks to you, the baked-up loaf always comes out looking swell. My son (under the tutelage of his girlfriend Katie, who is a terrific baker) made his first braided bread a couple of weekends ago and I think he wowed even himself.

The braided bread pictured here, which I made earlier in the spring (round about Easter time), is an egg bread, but I threw in a little turmeric to give it more of an eggy golden glow.

Toasted-Oat Egg Bread
The toasted oats give the bread a nice rich flavor, but also--and the real reason I added them--a good dose of soluble fiber. Be sure to measure the flour by spooning flour into a measuring cup and then leveling off the top.

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
5-1/4 cups flour*
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup very hot (120° to 130°F) water
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons water
*Flour measured by spooning and leveling

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the oats on a baking pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted. Measure out a generous tablespoon of toasted oats and set aside to sprinkle on the loaves before baking.
2. In a food processor, combine the yeast, 2-1/2 cups of the flour, the remaining toasted oats, the sugar, salt, turmeric and butter, and process to distribute the butter evenly. Add the hot water and pulse to blend. Add 3 of the eggs, one at a time, pulsing to thoroughly combine. Separate the last egg. Add the egg white to the processor and set the egg yolk aside in a small bowl.
3. Add 2-1/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough forms a rough mass. The dough will be soft.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using only as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Divide each half into 3 pieces and roll each piece into a rope 12 inches long and tapered at the ends. Lay the ropes parallel to one another and press together the points at one end. Braid the ropes and pinch the ends together. Tuck the pinched ends under. Transfer to a greased baking sheet.
6. Beat the water into the egg yolk. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the reserved toasted oats. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves

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