Butternut Braid Bread
After 2 years of home schooling my young kids, it finally hit me. We actually have to be home sometimes to do this school thing well. So, since September, we’ve cut back on our commitments to bump up our time at home. It’s been (mostly) good. In addition to more reading, writing, and arithmetic, there have been other bonuses, as well. For example, it’s forced me to stay on top of the laundry pile. I try to always show up for class wearing clean yoga pants (and holding a strong cup of coffee).
Since we’re home anyway, I’ve also been baking and making more of our food from scratch again. I can’t remember the last time I bought bread at the store. And I really like that. I’ll often start bread early in the morning. It rises while we eat breakfast and bakes while we do math. I’ve found that snack time makes cursive writing easier to swallow.
After this bread cooled on the kitchen countertop, my five-year old son took one bite and declared, “Mom, this is the most bestest bread you have ever made us.” (note to the teacher: add double superlatives to the list). The rest of the class agreed.
It really is good stuff. The ingredient list and end result are similar to a slightly sweet, eggy soft bread like Challah or cinnamon roll dough. The only addition is pureed butternut squash, which gives it that rich golden color.
By rolling and braiding the ropes, you can create a beautiful loaf, perfect for serving or gifting around the upcoming holidays (similar to our Graham Cracker Bread). It’s a little more involved, but not difficult at all. This bread could easily be shaped into loaves or rolls, if you want to go a faster route.
I added an ovensafe ramekin in the middle of the braid before baking to keep it from rising too much and losing the ring effect (you could skip this step and end up with a more free-form ring).
It worked perfectly. Once the bread was cool, I cut around the ramekin, popped it out, and filled it with Whipped Honey Butter. I’m pretty sure that was one of the best decisions I have made in 2015. This 4-ingredient butter is so good; I’m looking for excuses to smear it on everything.
I baked two loaves this week. We ate one with Cheddar Corn Chowder for dinner, while the wind and rain whipped around outside. The perfect November meal. The second loaf was saved for the best French toast. Try this delicious combo on friends and family or those house guests headed your way soon. I guarantee you, it will be a big hit. Some would even say most bestest.
Butternut Bread Braid
adapted from a Taste of Home recipe
3 c. uncooked cubed peeled butternut squash (2 cups cooked & pureed)
1/2 c. warm milk (110° to 115°)
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 t. salt
3-1/2-4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. butter, melted
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds
- Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and puree squash in a blender or food processor (you will need about 2 cups); cool.
- Pour the warm milk into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the yeast and brown sugar over the milk and let sit until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the pureed squash, butter, egg, salt, and 2 cups flour; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough ball (dough will be sticky).
- Knead (by hand or with mixer) until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a 26-in. rope; braid ropes. Transfer to a greased baking sheet; form into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Place a small bowl into the middle of the ring, if desired. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Remove from pan to wire rack. If desired, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with seeds.
Whipped Honey Butter
slightly adapted from an Alton Brown recipe
1 c. butter
2-3 T. honey
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. vanilla extract
- Cut the butter into chunks using a dough scraper or knife.
- Place butter into the bowl of an eletric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at low speed, to loosen the butter. Increase the speed to medium and add the honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.
- Beat until well combined, about 5-7 minutes.
I love my Stainless Steel Dough Scraper (Amazon). It’s another one of those versatile, inexpensive kitchen tools that I use all the time. In these two recipes alone, a dough scraper could do three different jobs: separate the dough into 3 equal portions, clean dough off the countertop, and cube the butter.
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