3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/43 degrees C)
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into small pieces, or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour (unbleached all-purpose flour may be substituted for the bread flour, if needed)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons clear honey
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast or instant yeast
For Dusting Baking Pan: (optional)
2-3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
Sesame or poppy seeds
Note: You will need 2 baking sheets if making 2 smaller loaves (or one very large baking sheet will work also).
Lightly grease or line with parchment paper one or two baking sheets. Dust greased baking sheet (or parchment paper lined sheet) with cornmeal (dusting your baking sheet with cornmeal is optional but it gives the crust a nice flavor and texture).
Add warm water, egg, butter (or margarine or vegetable oil, if using), salt, flour, sugar, honey and yeast to bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select the Dough Cycle of your machine. Start the cycle.
When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured work surface. Punch dough down and let rest for 5 minutes. If necessary, knead in enough flour to make dough easy to handle.
Making 1 loaf:
If making one 1 1/2-pound loaf, divide dough into 3 equal size pieces and roll each piece into 20-inch long rope. Place ropes on prepared baking sheet that have been dusted with cornmeal (dusting baking sheet with cornmeal is optional). Braid by bringing left rope under center rope; lay it down. Bring right rope under new center rope; lay it down. Repeat braiding to the end of loaf. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under dough.
Making 2 smaller loaves:
If making two smaller loaves, divide dough in half. For each loaf, divide dough into 3 equal size pieces and roll each piece into a 12-inch long rope (you will have 6 ropes if making 2 smaller loaves). Place ropes on prepared baking sheets dusted with cornmeal (dusting with cornmeal is optional). Braid by bringing left rope under center rope; lay it down. Bring right rope under new center rope; lay it down. Repeat braiding to the end of loaf. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under dough. Repeat braiding with remaining 3 ropes for second loaf.
Lightly beat egg yolks with water. Brush loaf (s) with half of the egg wash, saving the remaining egg wash to brush loaf (s) again before baking. Cover with plastic wrap and place a smooth cotton kitchen towel over plastic wrap and let loaf (s) rise in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, 45 to 50 minutes.
Brush loaf (s) with the remaining egg wash. If desired, sprinkle loaf (s) with sesame or poppy seeds and bake at 375 degrees F/190 degrees C for 25 to 30 minutes or until done (bread is done if it registers 190 degrees F/87 degrees C with instant-read thermometer).
Cover bread with aluminum foil after 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning (for even browning when baking two loaves, switch positions of sheets halfway through baking). Remove bread from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.
Bread may be frozen once cooled completely (2 hours). Wrap in aluminum foil, then place bread in a ziploc bag. Label and date. Bread can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw for 1 hour at room temperature before serving.
Makes 1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf or 2 small (3/4 pound) loaves.
© 2006 Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall
Date: April 7, 2006