It’s days like today where I can say with firm conviction – “I hate my office job…” It brings out the worse in me…. Or maybe it’s just the preggy hormones doing the talking (though I’m pretty sure it’s the job).
But just like the lyrics in Hotel California, “You can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave,” this place has a magnetic field that makes it impossible for me to throw in the towel, wave my hands hysterically above my head, slap around a few people that I loathe and then take off (without looking back). The problem is… I always look back, and so… I trudge on, begrudgingly in meek acceptance.
In attempt to peg my dampened soul out in the sunshine to dry, I decided that I needed to bake something scrummy enough to put the glow back into my tummy and fuzz back into my heart… A warm piece of fluffy, sweet bread with a steaming hot cup of milky tea should do it.
I can’t say that I’m an expert at bread making… but one of the things that I love to bake most is bread. It’s especially satisfying when you get a good end product – aromatic and golden brown tends to drag both the cat and Jason into the kitchen by the nose.
The only experience that I have had of bread making is at pastry school, so I approach the art respectfully and delicately. It’s a little different baking bread at home without the commercial mixers, steam ovens and the professional prover. However, it is definately possible. I would recommend using a good electric mixer (such as a kitchenaid or a professional breville). I know what all the professional bakers will say about this, however, in my opinion, if you still want to have functioning arms and fingers after this little activity, an electic mixer with a dough hook can be a bit of a saviour.
This sticky sweet bread that I made turned out really well. It had the feel of a warm, fluffy cloud and the toasted almonds with the nice crunch helped bring the fuzziness back.
Makes 2 braids of sweet breads
- 400 grams Bakers flour (or plain flour)
- 24 grams Fresh Yeast (or 8 grams Dried Yeast)
- 6 grams salt
- 40 grams caster sugar
- 3 grams bread improver
- 32 grams shortening / butter
- 12 grams milk powder
- 16 grams egg
- finely grated rind from 1 lemon
- + / – 216 grams warm water
- icing sugar mixture & a couple of drops of lemon juice enough to make a thick, spreadable paste
- toasted almond flakes
Ingredients for the sugar syrup:
- 200 grams sugar
- 250 grams water
- Preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Place the flour, yeast, salt (away from the yeast), sugar, bread improver, butter and milk powder in a bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook.
- Mix together for about 4-5 minutes at slow speed.
- Add the lemon rind to the egg and add slowly into the electric mixer.
- Add the warm water slowly (leaving out just a little) and allow the dough to come together. You can add more water if the dough looks a little dry.
- Mix the dough at medium speed for 5-6 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the mixer.
- Flatten the dough a little on a flat surface and bring the dough together. (To do this, fold the edges of the dough into the centre, turn in over and round it with your hands)
- Leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes on a floured surface and cover with a damp tea towel.
- After 15 minutes is up, scale off the dough – weight the dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces.
- Round them off and allow to rest again under the damp tea towel for 15 minutes.
- Now we shape the dough.
- For this bread, I made them into braids.
- Divide each round into 3 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into long snake and join one end of each snake together.
- Braid the bread as you would normally tie a plait.
- Pinch the ends and tuck them into the bottom of the bread.
- Repeat this for the other dough.
- Place the braided dough on a warm tray (greased) / pizza stone and cover with the damp tea towel for 20-25 minutes. (You may wish to cover the bread with a plastic container, sprinkle a few droplets of water on the tray and place the bread in a 30°C oven to get a better prove.)
- To check that the dough has been proved enough, gently poke your finger into the dough, making an indent. If the indent comes back but retains a little indent, your dough is perfect and ready to bake.
- Using a pastry brush, brush your braided dough with a beaten egg.
- Bake in a 220°C oven for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, you can make your icing and toast your almond flakes.
- Also, place the ingredients for sugar syrup in a sauce pan and bring to boil. *Note: stir to dissolve the sugar at the start but stop stirring before syrup comes to the boil, otherwise, it will crystalise and burn.
- Remove the bread from the oven.
- Brush the sugar syrup onto the bread to seal in the moisture.
- Using a spatula, spread the icing on the bread, however you like.
- Lift the bread carefully off the tray / pizza stone (you can use an egg flip to assist you with this)
- Push the bread face down onto the tray of toasted almonds.
- Place carefully onto a wire to cool.
- Or if you can’t resist, break off a little of that warm bread and have with a steaming cuppa hot tea.