While everyone else is baking Christmas cookies and candies, I like to take a different approach to holiday baking. I prefer to give the gift of home baked bread. I found this recipe several years ago when helping a neighbor look for recipes for the 4-H fair. It is another one of those recipes from the Kansas Wheat Commission and I love the fact that I can use my bread machine to mix the dough. I have helped 3 different girls learn how to make this for 2 different county fairs and they all have received purple ribbons on this bread.
I always put the liquid ingredients in my bread machine first. So to begin, add the following to the pan of your bread machine: low-fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese,(the recipe says seived, but I usually just dump the cottage cheese in), butter, honey, and 1 egg. The recipe also says you should warm the milk, butter and cottage cheese. If you warm it, put it in a pan on the stove and use a thermometer. Getting liquids too warm can kill your yeast and if they are too cold the yeast won't grow as well it should.
I add all the dry ingredients on top of the liquids. I try to put the yeast right in the top of the pile, so I know it won't get stuck on the sides of the pan or in one corner. Start the bread machine on the DOUGH cycle. My machine takes about an hour and a half to run that cycle.
If we are making bread for the fair, I have the girls weigh the dough balls to make sure they are the same size and will produce a very balanced looking braid.
If you have never braided bread before, don't be intimidated as it is really quite easy. I have taught 3 teenage girls to braid 6 strands at once. First, start by pinch your ends together.
Take the first strand on your right. Carry it over the next 2 strands and pass it under the 3rd strand and over the top of the last 2 and lay it on the left side. We like to talk to ourselves and say "over 2 under 1 over 2."
Just keeping passing the strands from one side to the other in this manner until you get to the end of the loaf.
I like to tell the girls to braid until there is nothing left to move over...clear down to the last half inch. Pinch the ends together a little, so all your hard work doesn't come unraveled.
Tuck the ends where you pinched the strands together under the loaf, so you can't see them. Place the dough on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double in size, usually about 20 minutes.
While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When you are ready to put it in the oven, beat the other egg in a bowl and brush the loaf all over with the egg. The egg will give it a nice shine and will adhere the sesame seeds to the bread.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. You will need to make a tent out of aluminum foil to place over your braid for the last 15 minutes or it will get too brown. We don't get too fancy, we just try to push it around the loaf, so the ends are open a little.
When I make this for gifts, I make 2-3 stranded braids which are much more manageable for a small family or an elderly couple than a huge 6 stranded braid. I also don't have to tent the smaller braids with aluminum foil.
The girls that have made this bread all LOVE it. One of them says it is the only bread she will eat without butter...it is that GOOD!
Two Cheese Wheat Bread
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat milk 1 T vital wheat gluten*
½ cup low-fat cottage cheese, sieved 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 egg, beaten ½ teaspoon onion powder
1 cup whole wheat flour ½ garlic powder
2 cups bread flour 1 package quick-rising yeast
1 egg Sesame seeds
Warm milk, cottage cheese and butter to 800F. Place ingredients in bread machine in order listed. Select DOUGH cycle. Do not use the delay timer. Check dough after 5 minutes. If it is too dry add 1 teaspoon of water; if it is too sticky, add 1 teaspoon of flour at a time. Remove the dough from machine; divide into 6 equal pieces. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into a six stranded braid. Roll each piece into a rope approx. 14 inches long. Pinch together the six ropes together at one end, with tips facing you. Braid the bread by placing the first one over the next two and under the fourth then over the last two and keep repeating this until it is completely braided. Pinch together the ends and tuck under ends and pinch to seal. Cover let rise until doubled. Brush with beaten egg; sprinkle on sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 3500F oven 25-30 minutes. Tent braid with foil for the last 15 minutes.
Makes 1 large braid, 24 servings
Nutritional Analysis: One Slice provides approx. 97 calories, 4 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 24 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 29 mcg folate, 1 mg iron, 151 mg sodium.