Braided Bread, Pesto & Labneh

Braided bread, pesto & labneh

September means the beginning of the end of summer. And it’s a thought that brings joy! This month it’s going to be mostly about bread and apples. I have been on a pinning spree and came across the most fabulous breads on Pinterest. Since our cuisine includes only flat breads that are easier and take less time to make, it’s only in recent years that I have discovered the joys of baking bread. Like pies, I find the lattices and the braids so fascinating that I think bread will occupy most of this space in September.
To go with the bread I had made a chickpea, lentil and quinoa soup but it didn’t look photogenic at all so I haven’t included it here. But I had also made pesto and labneh as I love both as an accompaniment to freshly-baked bread.

3 cups all-purpose flour+ extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp fine sugar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil+ extra for greasing the bowl and the ball of dough
A mix of seeds like white and black sesame, flax seeds and melon seeds for the topping
1 egg yolk, beaten, for the egg wash
Butter to grease the loaf tin

The stages of making this braided bread


  • Pour the warm water in a bowl. The water must not be too hot or else it will kill the yeast. Add the sugar and the yeast. Give a mix and set aside for about 10 minutes. It will be ready when the yeast froths up. 
    • Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Add the oil.
      • Mix well. Tip the contents on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes till the dough is smooth and elastic.
      • Scrape off the bits of dough from the large bowl, pour about a tsp of oil and spread it on bottom surface of the bowl.
      • Take the kneaded dough and place it in the bowl. Rub the oil in your hand on the surface of the ball.
      • Cover with a kitchen towel and keep in a warm place for the dough to double in size. This may take about 45 minutes to an hour.
      • I usually place the dough near my kitchen window where it’s warmed by the morning sunlight streaming in. 
      • Tip the dough on to a floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes.
      •  With your hands, roll out the dough in an elongated shape on your work surface and cut into 3 equal parts. 
      • Again with your hands roll out the three parts into long strips. The length should be a little longer than your loaf tin as plaiting the strips will shorten it a bit. But it will snugly fit into the tin.
      • Join one end of the strips and plait. When you come to the end, do the same, that is, join the ends.
      • Lift the plait and place it on your greased loaf tin.
      • Cover it (I used the same large bowl for this purpose) and let it prove for another 20 minutes or so.
      • Brush with beaten egg yolk and scatter your choice of seeds on the surface of the loaf.
      • Bake at 180C in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or till the loaf is golden. Tap it to see whether it sounds hollow.
      • Remove. After 10 minutes or so take it out from the tin and place on a cooling rack. 


      A generous slathering of labneh on the bread

      I had this when it was still warm with a generous slathering of labneh (recipe here) topped with fresh mint from my overgrown container and ruby-red pomegranate arils. Another slice was with freshly-made pesto. The recipe in my pesto post uses almonds and no cheese. This time I used pine nuts rather than almonds. My basil plants are still going strong and I have also dried the leaves for future use. The soup was all right in taste except that it didn’t look photograph-worthy.;)

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