I am fascinated by a braided bread because of its beauty. Braiding is something I associate with hair and not so much with food. So this is not just food but an artistic food expression!
Challah is a Jewish braided bread made using eggs. It is normally prepared as a round bread and eaten on Jewish holidays. This is an extended version of it, literally! This sage and olive oil loaf is braided like Challah, but is much smaller.
Sage is an easy herb to grow in a small dry area of any garden. It is a great healing herb with a strong fragrance. Ancient cultures burned dried sage as a smudge stick to produce smoke. The smoke was then directed to a person with a feather to bless, cleanse and heal the person being smudged as it has purifying powers. I am totally enticed by the raspy surface, texture and color of sage leaves.
I was inspired by Martha steward’s braided sage bread : here. I modified the recipe by changing the buttery yeast dough. I altered the measurement of almost all the ingredient, reduced flour, eggs, added more herbs and spices. The best part is there is no butter in this bread, only extra virgin olive oil. Chilli flakes are added for my heat craving family members. This bread is very interesting to make and bake! So it is my own special recipe which tastes like a European bread that you can buy in a bakery.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup warm water 80-100 ° F + more
- 2¼tsp active dry yeast
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp for brushing
- 1 egg + some for egg wash
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp dried or fresh rosemary
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- a pinch chilli powder (optional)
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- Take a large glass bowl and mix together yeast, warm water and sugar.
- Whisk egg in a smaller bowl, add it along with salt and olive oil into the yeast mixture.
- Stir in 2 cups flour, crushed rosemary and garlic powder into the bowl.
- Knead adding up to 2 tbsp warm water to get a soft non-sticky dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise (about an hour).
- When it is doubled in size, punch the dough and add chopped sage and chilli powder and knead.
- Divide dough into 3 parts.
- Make 3 ropes each 16 inch long with the dough.
- Place it on a greased baking tray tucking the ends underneath.
- Braid it tucking a sage leaf in between as you braid.
- Brush the braided dough with beaten egg wash.
- Cover it with a greased plastic wrap and let it rise for 15 minutes or until double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and brush with olive oil and bake for 10 more minutes or until outer crust sounds hollow when tapped.
- Cool on a wire rack and slice after it cools completely.
Making bread is tricky because the liquid amount varies depending on where you live, the temperature and humidity in the air. When kneading, add flour or warm water as needed to make a soft, sticky dough. If adding water, add a little at a time, until the bread forms a ball. The ball should not be too sticky.
I have braided my hair, folded it in two and tied a ribbon all through my school days. So I thought it is freaking easy, ah… not so soon! It is a bit tricky when the braiding is done on soft, sticky dough. I had to construct and reconstruct to get the braid right. I tucked in fresh sage leaves and pushed their stalks into the dough as I braided.
It tastes good on its own or with grilled vegetables and egg. I have a Kalamata olive pesto that I can put on this bread. Overall an excellent bread, I will definitely make it again. This bread dough would make a delicious pizza crust too.