Baked Goods, Bread / Rolls

Braided Roasted Red Pepper Bread

Truth. I am horrible at doing my own hair. I also haven’t gone to the salon since September so that complicates things even more. Therefore right now I essentially have two “styles.” They are messy bun and disheveled curls made via hot rollers. Kate Middleton wouldn’t be caught dead out in public with me. She’d seriously make me stay in the car while she perused Top Shop and Zara.

What’s all of this hair talk about anyway? Well, you see, I can’t create anything fancier than a three-strand boring old braid on my own head but thanks to a little help from a friend I can now whip up a stunning six-strand braid of dough and bake it into bread. Pretty amazing, right? But let’s go back to the beginning.

This roasted red pepper bread has been kicking around my kitchen in a purple folder full of loose recipes for more than a year now. I poached it from CK’s grandmother’s copious collection of cookbooks one sleepless night (along with that herbed fan roll recipe) and every once in a while I would see it and think I should make it and then I’d promptly forget and bake cookies or you know…have to pack my entire house and move yet again. Little things like that — ha ha. But I finally managed to get my act together last week and bring this stunning orange loaf to life.

I loved that the dough resembled pumpkin hued Play-Doh and while it sat quietly rising in my kitchen I really wanted to do something cool with it. The instructions said to braid the dough with a regular three-strand technique but I didn’t want to do that. How ho-hum can yo get? Then I remembered a video that Alejandra of Always Order Dessert created where she walked you through the step-by-step process of creating a six-strand braid.

I literally watched the video six times before I tried it. Then I left it playing on a loop on my iPad while I braided my loaf. The proportions on one of my stands was a little off so I had to redo the braid once but on the second try I nailed it and thought it looked pretty spectacular. Of course, once it rose a second time it was absolutely enormous and this post should probably be renamed Roasted Red Pepper Bread: The Andre the Giant Experience.

The smell of this bread cooking is seriously scrumptious and you get to relive that scent each time you toast a slice for breakfast. Of course CK totally ruined it for me by saying that it smelled like Cheez-its. That took the persnickety wind right out of my sails and admittedly, he’s right, but it still smells good and it makes a mean grilled cheese. If you bake this bread you absolutely have to make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s the law. I mean it! Plus you can only eat so much toast.

Roasted Red Pepper Bread
Makes 1 Huge Loaf
Originally published in the Taste of Home Christmas Annual 2010 and slightly modified below.

1-1/2 cups roasted sweet red peppers, drained
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Place red peppers in a food processor; cover and process until pureed. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the red peppers, 1 cup cheese, milk, butter, salt and 1-1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Divide dough into six pieces. Then watch Alejandra’s video to learn how to create a six-stand bread braid. Place the braided dough on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine egg and water; brush over braids. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on it.