Photo Guide: Braided Garlic Bread

I’m back again with another photo guide; this time for my braided garlic bread! Today I wanted to share some pictures from the bread making process so you all can know what your dough should look like. I’m really excited to finally debut this entry because I’ve been buzzing about my “photo guide” series for a while. This was a joint effort between my roommate, Shawn and myself.

When I’m crunched for time I like to speed up my kneading process by turning up the oven to the lowest temperature so the heating element is warmed and the entire oven is toasty. Then, I turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly and use the residual heat in the elements to speed the proofing process up.

When I have the time, I let the bread take its time to rise so I can develop some nice flavors in the bread dough as the yeast breaks the gluten and sugar down.

In my kitchen, I always keep a jar of Active Dry Yeast in the refrigerator so I can whip up some bread when I’m craving some carbs. I sprinkle the yeast on top of warm sugary water and then stir to let it dissolve. The water should be heated so that its very warm, but you should still be able to submerge your hands in the water without wanting to pull them out. If you aren’t sure, keep it on the cooler side. By heating the water up, the yeast becomes active faster. I usually end up with some clumps, which is fine because they dissolve after letting it sit for a minute. You want to let it become nice and foamy which usually takes about 5 minutes. This is the “proofing” process.

Just to save some time I get started on the flour and spices while my yeast proofs. I find that tossing the spices together with my hands tenses to be more efficient than using a dough hook. I promise I washed my hands before hand! I like to add my oil into the flour ahead of time because it is a lot easier to combine chunks of flour and oil with water than it is to add oil to dough. This technique is also used in the Japanese Water-Roux technique –it is said that adding part of the liquids into the flour actually helps the water to be absorbed more evenly. Make sure you use bread flour because it will make kneading a lot easier. The higher gluten content makes for faster kneading times a better “crumb”.

more after the break!

When the yeast is nice and foamy I get the stand mixer started and slowly add the liquid into the flour. You can see through the picture below how unsmooth and sticky the dough is. This is unkneaded bread dough.

After the dough is smooth, it becomes slightly more difficult for the untrained eye to tell if dough is kneaded to the right degree. I like to pinch off a piece, flatten it and stretch. You can see examples of what unready dough (left) and kneaded dough (right) looks like. You want to get the “dough window” as thin as possible. When this happens the right amount of gluten has been developed in the dough and your dough will be able to trap all of the gas bubbles the yeast releases.

When the dough is ready, it’s time to rise! I gather it and give it a few kneads to make sure everything is fully distributed. There are different “directions” as to how to make a dough ball. I flattening my dough slightly, and fold the edges down and into each other. Then I continue to pull on the sides of the dough ball with my palms to tighten the dough. The dough is rolled around in an oiled bowl so it can be covered in oil as well. After the bowl is covered with saran wrap it is ready to sit and rise. I set this into my warm oven that I prepared earlier.

40 minutes later… The time it takes for your dough to rise might be different. Depending on the actual heat left in your oven and how old your yeast is, your bread will rise at different speeds.

After the first rise, the dough is ready to be shaped into braided loaves of deliciousness. Start by punching the bread dough dough one time. Albeit this isn’t entirely necessary, it’s kind of fun… Next I turn out my dough and evenly punch it down. This helps distribute the air bubbles created by the yeast which is the purpose of the “rise and punch” routine. Next I knead it a few times into round ball and divide it into six pieces.

Now it’s time to shape the dough. Honestly you can make them whatever shape you want but I have taken to the original recipe. I usually let the dough sit for 5 minutes before I start shaping so it has a chance to relax and it shapes more easily. To braid the bread, I stretch out the dough pieces and do a simple braid. I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a braider and I had my friend Jessica DeFalco help me out. The two braided loaves are then placed onto baking sheets and set to rise. I preheat the oven at this time so I don’t have to wait twice. After they are risen, the loaves are baked and ready to eat!

I make a garlic butter sauce while the bread is baking. Simply add two minced cloves of garlic to 1/4 cup of melted butter and add 1 teaspoon of salt. When the bread is ready, bast it in this butter sauce and serve while still slightly doughy and soft at the center!

Braided Garlic Bread

Makes: Two Loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 Tbls dry active yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 4-5 cups bread flour (but probably more like 6)

Directions

  1. Turn on your oven to the lowest temperature possible.
  2. In a cup, proof the yeast and sugar until the top is frothy.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, salt, oil and herbs. With the dough hook attachment, stir until the oil is absorbed by the flour. Slowly add the liquid-yeast mixture in on low. Continue to add the liquid until everything is completely combined.
  4. At this point turn the speed up to 2 on a Kitchen Aid (or continue on low for any other stand mixer). Slowly dust in flour 2 Tbsp at a time until the dough clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Continue to knead the dough in the stand mixer until it is smooth and elastic. This should take no more than 5 minutes. Make sure you do not over knead or else your results will be tough.
  5. Let the dough rise until it has doubled. Turn it out onto a table and punch it down so that the bubbles are even distributed. Knead the dough a few times to redistribute the yeast. Split the dough in halves and then into thirds resulting in 6 pieces of dough. Stretch each piece of dough out and braid 3 pieces of bread together.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Let the bread rise on the pans you will baking it on for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the the dough has doubled again. When the dough has doubled, bake the bread for 15 to 20 minutes until the top is browned.

For the butter sauce: Add two minced cloves of garlic to 1/4 cup of melted butter and add 1 teaspoon of salt. When the bread is ready, bast it in this butter sauce and serve while still slightly doughy and soft at the center!

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