I love baking bread. There's something so wonderful about the aroma of bread in the oven, permeating the whole house. Sometimes I'll go outside and come back in again just to smell that bread fragrance fresh all over again.
Being a bit on the lazy side, I love the convenience of the bread machine. But that square loaf it makes is really ugly. So I'll often use my bread machine to mix up the dough, then I'll pull it out, shape it, and bake it. Today, however, I decided to do it all by hand.
I found a fun-looking recipe that called for onion soup mix (which we just bought at Wal-Mart from one of those clearance racks. I usually don't buy mixes like that, but it was very marked down and I couldn't resist). I love a good savory loaf, so decided to give it a try. This particular recipe makes two braided loaves. I was excited to be able to try a bread braid for the first time.
Sesame Onion Braid
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (I used 1 tbsp. - it's not exactly 1/4 oz, but it's close enough)
1 1/4 cups warm water, divided (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm sour cream (110-115 degrees; I heated mine up on the stove, over medium heat, stirring frequently. It worked well)
3 eggs, divided (that's divided, not separated)
1 envelope onion soup mix
2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
6-1/2 to 6-3/4 cup all-purpose flour (here I deviated from the recipe and substituted 1 cup bean flour for 1 cup of the flour. It adds more nutrients, and makes it change color a bit. This is, of course, optional)
1 tbsp. cold water
3 tbsp. sesame seeds
The recipe also makes a Caramelized Onion Butter, but it calls for cream cheese which I don't have at the time. I'll post that too, but I'm not making it this time.
Caramelized Onion Butter:
1 tbsp. diced onion
6 tbsp. butter, softened, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, cubed
1/2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water; let stand for 5 minutes (I had an oopsie here; I missed the part where it said 1/4 cup water, and instead dissolved the yeast in the whole 1 1/4 cup. It didn't affect the finished bread). Add sour cream, 2 eggs, onion soup mix, butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, and remaining warm water; mix well. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough.
Not having a powerful stand mixer, or any stand mixer at all, this is the part where it gets hard for me. I usually stir with a wooden spoon for as long as I can, then finally toss the spoon aside and start mixing it with my hands. This is fun, because they get goopy and I start looking and feeling like a swamp monster, with all that doughy gooey mess all over my hands! But I digress...
Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (a sink full of hot water works great; I got the idea from Michelle) until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into six portions. Shape each into a 15-inch rope (It might be a good idea to let the dough rest for five to ten minutes after dividing it. It was elastic at first and snapped back into its original shape when I tried the first few, but after a while it got easier as the dough rested). Place three ropes on a greased baking sheet; braid. Pinch ends to seal; tuck under. Repeat with remaining three ropes. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. I think I did a pretty good job of braiding the bread, considering that I've never done it before.
Beat cold water and remaining egg; brush over dough. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.For the onion butter:
In a large skillet, saute onion in 1 tbsp. butter until golden brown. Add garlic; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until golden.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, onion mixture, parsley, and remaining butter until creamy. Serve with bread.
Even though I didn't make the caramelized onion butter, this bread turned out really good. It has a yummy onion flavor, and is very light and fluffy.