For the longest time, I refused to work with yeast. That is, until I finally clicked with yeast. Under the right conditions, yeast is beautiful and helps your breads become fluffy and light. But used incorrectly, outside the right conditions, it doesn’t quite work that way. I’ve been more eager to use yeast in recipes now.
Here’s some tips right off the bat!
- The temperature at which you mix yeast in should just be warm to touch. Kinda like medium warm tap water. Too hot and the yeast will die, too cold and it just won’t bloom in the time you need
- To create an insulated warmer environment, turn on the oven and set the cooking timer to about 2-3 minutes. The oven should just barely reach 100ºF, which will be perfect for the heat to transfer into your container over time. Use this method if your kitchen is <65ºF.
- If your kitchen is >65ºF, you could get away with the counter. If you’ve boiled water or cooked something on the stove, place your dough near that area and the heat will transfer too.
- Yeast can get old, so unless you’re using yeast fairly frequently, don’t buy a big container. Buy small amounts at the bulk aisle or just smaller packets.
- Always go by the volume instead of time when waiting for dough to proof and rise.
Anyway, here’s a go at a braid! I love, love, love bread braids especially if they’re the twisted ones where you see all the yummy filling inside. The richness of it all just invites you to take a big bite and savor it. It’s relatively easy to make and way more impressive than the work put in. Truly a crowd pleaser if you need some carbs to share.
You can use whatever filling you’d like, though the more moist the better. I used a mix of pandan paste and cocoa filling. The green and brown swirl so beautifully. And to make it somewhat “healthier”, I opted to use whole wheat bread flour, simply because I had it in my pantry. You can substitute it for normal white bread flour, which will be slightly fluffier. So dig in and get ready for some delicious bread and maybe pair it with a nice cup of tea!
Pandan Chocolate Braid
- 2 cups whole wheat bread flour
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2-1/4 tsp dry instant yeast (1 package = 7g)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 egg
- 12 pandan leaves
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup coconut milk, separated
- 6 Tbsp sugar, separated
- 1 egg, separated
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp coarse sugar
- In a large bowl, mix together the flours and yeast.
- Over medium-low heat, combine the water, salt, butter, and sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm temperature (slightly warm to touch).
- In a stand mixer with the dough hook (or hand knead), combine the flour and liquid mixture and egg for 7-10 minutes. As the dough comes together and lifts away from the bowl, use the window pane test to check for gluten developement.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until double in size.
- Pandan Filling: Meanwhile, as the dough is resting, make the two fillings. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the pandan leaves with water. Sieve it and discard the solids. Then combine the retained pandan water with 2 Tbsp coconut milk, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 egg yolk. Set aside.
- Cocoa Filling: Combine the rest of the ingredients together for the cocoa filling (1/4 c cocoa, 2 Tbsp softened butter, 1 egg white, 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp coconut milk. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to a rectangle 12" x 20". Spread the two fillings in an alternating pattern, either diagonal or length-wise stripes.
- To shape, roll up the dough with the long side. Then, using a sharp knife, cut the dough down the middle the long ways in three sections (opposite you would a cinnamon roll) but leave about 1 inch attached. Braid by pulling the alternating outside strands to the middle. Try to keep the layers facing up. Tuck the end beneath itself for a prettier finish.
- Brush the melted butter over the braid and sprinkle coarse sugar over the top.
- Transfer the braid to a baking sheet (optionally lined with parchment or a silicone mat). Cover and let the braid rise and rest as the oven preheats to 350ºF. Bake for about 50 minutes, until golden brown and the bread feels firm to touch. Cool before slicing.
- Window pane test: this is a common method to check that the dough has been kneaded enough. Take a small chunk of dough, about grape sized, and start pulling the edges. If the dough does not break, while allowing light to shine through (window pane), then it's good! If it breaks before the window pane effect, then knead and test again until you get there.
- Double the filling if just using one of them.
- For the coconut milk, use it at room temperature to make sure it combines well.
If the braid is too long for your sheet pans, you can divide it in half and bake them as 2 separate loaves
- Adapted from Candice Brown's cookbook Comfort
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