My Braided Sweetheart Bread

My Braided Sweetheart Bread

“I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love me.”

Notting Hill

If you are looking for Valentine’s Day flick, do watch Notting Hill. The story reminds you of how a chance encounter can become so much more. Ronnie and I had a meet-cute a few years ago right here in Dubai. When I returned to Lebanon, I wondered if we would ever reunite. As the story goes, distance does make the heart grow fonder. We kept in touch, and when I decided to work here, he did not hesitate to pop the question.

That’s also how my love affair with home cooking begun.

Every year, I wonder how many twists and turns our lives will take. My braided bread symbolizes our eventful journey and the knots that tie us together. All you ‘knead’ for this bread is heaps of love and affection for your special someone.

What’s inside this cute creation?

My bread features pink beetroot hues and an array of baking staples. The quick and easy recipe is ideal for whipping up a sweet treat for this special occasion. You can enjoy these tasty baked goods morning, afternoon, or post-dinner, depending on your mood.

If you want more flavor, you can dip it into hot chocolate ganache or stuff it with raisins and date fruits. Either way, this humble treat makes a great snack for two.

What to Expect?

  • Vegan snack
  • Dairy-free
  • No refined sugar
  • Quick and easy recipe

Baking Tips for Braided Heart Bread

While this homemade bread looks amazing with its bright color and perfect heart shape, it tasted just as amazing as well. It has a slightly crusty exterior and a melt-in-your-mouth soft interior. Every bite I took was disappearing in seconds and forcing me to help myself to another piece. Here are some important baking tips that can help you achieve the same results.

Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Yeast

Yeast is a critical ingredient in most bread recipes and is the main factor contributing to the shape and structure of the bread. Therefore, make sure you are using the right kind of yeast. This recipe calls for instant yeast which you can add to the flour directly. However, if you are using active dry yeast, you will need to bloom it in water first. In that case, don’t forget to adjust the quantity of water in the recipe.

Be Careful with the Salt

If yeast gives your bread structure, salt gives it taste. However, this doesn’t mean you should be overly generous with it. Salt can inhibit the yeast’s effectiveness – that’s why I recommend adding yeast to one side and salt and sugar to the other side. So, stick with the amount of salt I’ve mentioned, and you should be good to go!

Use Lukewarm Water

Finally, use lukewarm water for the bread. This is a rule that can apply to many other recipes as well. When it’s not mentioned, it’s always good to use room temperature ingredients. For this recipe specifically, using cold water won’t activate the yeast, making it hard for the bread to rise, and using too hot water can affect the yeast. Test the temperature of the water using your finger and proceed accordingly.

Getting the Perfect Braid

There are two main elements in getting that perfectly intricate braid for spectacular-looking bread – the kneading and the braiding. While it may sound technical, it really isn’t. All you need is to take care of the small details, and you’ll be calling yourself an expert baker in no time! Here’s what you need to remember.

Kneading the Dough

This is a crucial part of the recipe, which will not only affect how beautiful your braid turns out but also how fluffy your bread is. Therefore, I suggest going over this part carefully and not rushing this step.

Whether you’re using a stand mixer or your hands, you have to knead the dough to the perfect consistency. This means it should be soft to touch but also be firm enough to hold its shape. Here are three ways you can check if the dough has reached the right consistency or not.

  1. The dough looks smooth and is not sticking to the bowl as much.
  2. The dough holds its shape when you lift the ball in your hand. If it starts sagging in your hand, it needs more kneading.
  3. The dough goes back to its original shape when you poke a finger in it. If the indentation remains, it needs more kneading.

Taking time to knead the dough perfectly will save you from a lot of trouble and stress later. Not to mention, it can also be a great arm workout if you’re using your hands.

Braiding the Dough

This is a tricky step but also my favorite part. Seeing the bread come together with that bright color and elaborate yet simple pattern has me going on a bread-fueled euphoria. Here are some tricks I’ve discovered that can help you with the braiding process.

  • Make sure you let the dough rest and rise before you actually start the braiding. Otherwise, your final baked bread will be a lumpy and half-cooked mess.
  • Sprinkle just enough flour on your work surface and hands that the dough doesn’t stick anywhere but isn’t sliding around either. This will make it easy to section and rope the bread evenly.

Here are the steps you need to follow for braiding the dough.

Step 1: Place the dough on the floured workstation and divide it into six equal pieces.

Step 2: Work with one piece at a time and roll it into a long and even rope that is not greater than your baking sheet. Make sure the width of the rope is the same throughout the length of it.

Step 3: Repeat the roping step for the rest of the five pieces and make sure they are all equal in length and width.

Step 4: Take three of the ropes and place them on a greased and unrimmed baking sheet.

Step 5: Pinch the ends of all three ropes together and tuck them underneath for a neat look.

Step 6: Start braiding by crossing the right rope over the center rope, and then the left rope over the center rope. Keep alternating between the left and right till you reach the end of the ropes.

Step 7: Repeat for the other half of the heart.

Don’t forget to let the braided bread rest before it goes in the oven!

Take Your Bread to the Next Level with these Healthy Additions

If you’re not a fan of plain old bread, no need to worry. There are several options to upgrade this bread into a tastier yet still healthy snack.

  • Add raisins or dried fruits for a chunkier and nuttier bread.
  • Prepare a vegan cheese or Za’atar dip or even your favorite soup to pair with your healthy braided bread.
  • Cut the vegan bread into thin slices and make garlic bread out of them.

Despite the large serving, Ronnie and I managed to finish the entire bread all on our own. It was just that darn good!

So, before it disappears from your kitchen too, don’t forget to snap a few pictures and share how your braided bread turned out with me by tagging @joyfulhomecooking and including #joyfulhomecooking in your tags.

Tags: #joyfulhomecooking #vegan #glutenfree #artisanbread #bakedgoods #madewithlove #valentine’sspecial #valentinedayideas #braidedbread

P.S: Share your love stories below!

P.P.S. Keep an eye out for another bread-tastic Valentine idea!

Print

My Braided Sweetheart Bread

Skip the chocolates this year and give your loved one a braided heart bread instead. The intricate pattern, lovely hue, and soft texture are bound to tug some heartstrings of anyone who eats it.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour + 1 hour rising time
  • Cook Time: 25-35 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Author:
  • Joyce Mrad

Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 90 ml olive oil
  • 240 ml warm water
  • 20 g beetroot powder mixed in 20g water*

Instructions

  1. Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side and the sugar and salt to the other. Mix to combine.
  2. Add the oil, beetroot mixture, and most of the water and stir to form rough dough, adding the rest of the water as needed to bring it together.
  3. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes in a stand mixer.
  4. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch but not sticky. If it is too sticky then knead in more flour, a spoonful at a time until it reaches the desired texture.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  6. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to let air bubbles out.
  7. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball and cover the balls with a kitchen towel. Working with one piece at a time, roll each ball into a rope.  Repeat the process 2 times. Place the 3 ropes side by side on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pinch the ends together.  Braid the dough all the way through and seal the end by pinch them together and tuck underneath. Place the braided dough on a baking sheet and bend it into a moon shape. Repeat the remaining 3 strands to make the second braided dough.
  8. Place it on the baking sheet together with the first dough and pinch both edges together to make it into a heart shape as per the image.**
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for another hour or almost doubled in size. Preheat your oven at 180°C. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Notes

*You can skip the beetroot powder if you don’t want colored bread, or even use black carrots or turmeric powder for other colors.

**If you braid the bread directly on the baking sheet, you won’t have to move it around as much and risk stretching or ruining your braid.

 

Keywords: Bread, homemade bread, Challah bread, Beetroot bread, Heart Shaped Sourdough Challah, heart bread, braided heart bread, vegan bread, healthy bread, vegan braided bread

Lastly, a word of caution – once you’ve had this bread, you’ll never be satisfied with the store-bought kind, so proceed at your own risk. You’ve been warned!

Enjoy!

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