This Braided Bread with Poppy Seeds is a lovely bread, easy to make, and only slightly sweet. Great for a late Sunday morning breakfast, with a thick layer of butter or as a French Toast.
Look at the picture, you can almost smell the sweetness. I would easily make this bread again and start experimenting with bread puddings or other recipes in which bread plays the leading role.
Born in The Netherlands, I grew up with bread at breakfast and bread at lunch-time. Simple sandwiches like cheese, cold-cuts or sweets like marmalade, peanut butter, Nutella or chocolate sprinkles. When I grew older, and times were changing, breakfast and lunch became a little more diverse, but bread is still an important part. May be that’s why there are so many small bakeries in Holland, all selling a darn good variety of bread.
Most Dutch grocery stores have their own bread counter with almost the same variety as the smaller bakeries and the packaged, pre-sliced bread is not awfully popular. When I started baking my own bread, most of the time, I was trying a type of bread that I was not so familiar with, like this Braided Bread with Poppy Seeds, very similar to a challah bread. Baking bread is for me about the flavors, the smells, the satisfaction that the dough becomes a bread. It is often not a perfectly looking creation.
A perfect bread? Can you give a definition? I cannot not. I am far from perfect, so how the heck would I be able to make a perfect bread. One thing I know, I am perfectly me, with all the flaws and imperfections. The photo above shows how imperfect the loaf is. It has a little belly, off center, but it is well-braided, it stays together and it has a wonderful light interior. That is good enough for me. It does not taste any better when it has the perfect shape.
How to make this bread. Take a look at the recipe below. It is a dough with eggs, sugar or honey and butter, so different for a normal bread. Clearly a rich bread and you will taste that. The fun with making this Braided Bread with Poppy Seeds is the braiding itself. You can go with 3 strands or with 5. Of course, I tried with 5 and I have tried several times and basically the bread comes out the same; a little uneven.
I read that you should start in the center and then work your way to the end, a method to get a more balanced shaped bread, but with 5 strands, I have not figured out how to do that. Will continue trying and will update you when I know how to do it.
Braided Bread with Poppy Seeds
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2.2 pounds all-purpose flour
- 21 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 ounces butter
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Mix flour, sugar, yeast, salt, eggs, butter, and water in a bowl. Use a stand mixer or wet hands to incorporate all the flour.
- Knead the dough a little bit, create a ball. Cover bowl and allow to rest and rise in 1-2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Dust your counter with flour and knead the dough a few times. Cut in 5 equal pieces and roll each out, forming a rope with a length of approx. 12 inches. Each strand has the same length.
- Now the braiding starts. Push the 5 strands together at 1 end and start braiding and push the strands together at the other end.
- 5 strands makes for a more complicated braid. Take the right strand and pull it over 3 strands, so it becomes the 2nd from the left.
- Move the left strand to the right, over 2 strands, so it becomes the middle one. Now move the 2nd strand from the left and pull it over the middle strand. At this stage you will end up with a braid on the left side of the strands.
- Now repeat the process. Pull right strand over 3 strands, then pull 2nd strand from the left and pull over the middle one. Etc.
- At the end push the strands together. Place the bread on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- While the oven is warming to 350 degrees F, make the egg wash by mixing 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
- Brush the bread with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
- Place bread in the oven and bake for approx. 35 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool before you cut the loaf.