Thursday, September 20, 2012

Magic Rainbow Braided Bread

This recipe has an interesting history. It is really based on Emeril Legasse’s Christmas Bread recipe. I watched him make it on his television show at least fifteen years ago and was, obviously, really impressed with it. Unfortunately, back then, if you did not print out the recipe within a few days of the show, it disappeared into the archives. I had waited too long. Keeping a kosher kitchen, I did not want to buy the book in which it was published later for just one recipe. A few years after that, I mentioned to my friend Larry, in a random conversation, that I had missed printing out an Emeril recipe for a braided bread with multicolored strands a few years earlier. The next week, when he came to dinner, he had tracked it down and printed out a copy for me. That was back in September of 2003 according to the date on the print-out. I filed the recipe in a folder I keep of recipes that I want to try. 

This year (2012), our Rosh Hashanah meals were going to be dairy because of the reconstruction of Jess and Alex’s new kitchen. A round, braided, bread containing parmesan cheese would be no problem this time. This recipe is so wonderful in my opinion, that I feel sorry I have missed making it regularly for the last 15 years. The colors and flavors are incredibly vibrant, and the process is very easy once the three pastes are formulated in the food processor. Be sure to wash the processor between pastes to preserve the pure colors and flavors. I have renamed the recipe, as suggested by my granddaughters, because I have re-purposed and reshaped it for Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. I have been thinking about adding a fourth color and flavor so that I can make a four-braid woven round bread shape.

I use elephant garlic, which I chopped fine in the food-processor at the beginning, because it is a bit milder and doesn’t seem to stay on the body and breath as long as regular garlic.

Magic Rainbow Braided Bread

Sun-Dried Tomato Paste:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup whole sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil from the tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. chopped elephant garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped elephant garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 20 Kalamata olives (about 3/4 cup) pitted (best accomplished with a hand-held cherry pitter)
  • 1 anchovy fillet (anchovies packed in olive oil)
  • 2 tsp. chopped elephant garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil from anchovies
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Dough: (You will need to make three batches of this dough.)
  • 1 envelope (1/4 oz.)(2 tsp.) dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110°F.)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil (for oiling bowls)

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. Maldon salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

To make sun-dried tomato paste:
Combine water and tomatoes in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and process. Puree until the mixture is smooth, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

To make pesto:
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is smooth, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

To make tapenade:
Combine all its ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is smooth, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

To make the dough:
Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. Add the sun-dried tomato paste (or pesto or tapenade), salt, and flour. Beat at low speed until all of the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute. Then beat at medium speed until the mixture forms a ball, leaves the sides of the bowl, and climbs up  the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To assemble:
Remove the dough from the bowl and invert it onto a lightly floured surface. Cut each ball into two halves. Gently roll and stretch each half into a rope about 18 to 24 inches long. When you have made six ropes, take three of different colors and begin braiding the first bread. Make a cross with two ropes and lay the third color across the top. Begin braiding from the middle intersection to the end. Then, work the other side, braiding from the middle to the end. Repeat the process with the second three strands. Pull into a circle and tuck any loose ends underneath.

Line two baking sheets, preferably CushionAir pans, with parchment paper. Place the braids on the pans and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place until they double in size, about 1 hour.

With a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg evenly over the breads. Combine the Maldon salt and pepper and sprinkle over the top of the bread. Bake until lightly brown, 30 to 40 minutes. A convection oven produces good results. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

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