Among the important life lessons I’ve learned so far, one of my favourites is how sometimes the things we fear, once overcome, can turn into things we grow to love and cherish. I think this is the sort of relationship I have with yeast. I used to be so afraid of failing with it, always getting ahead of myself in imagining all sorts of possible mishaps, that I turn into such a nervous mess whenever I start the recipe. My fear prevented me from getting into my usual concentrated calm that helps me make sense of what I’m baking.
My first few attempts at making yeast breads were major disasters, most of which were heart-breaking enough to make me want to give up. I may not want to relive those experiences, but these are one of the few situations I am glad I was born stubborn.
Ever since I started making yeast breads successfully, I’ve had this insatiable urge to make every kind of yeast bread I possibly can. It’s become my favourite thing to bake. Every time I come up with good bread, the feeling of pride and triumph is incomparable. I don’t mind if I spend a whole day in the kitchen, or if the recipe stretches several days just to accomplish; as long as the result is good, it’s all worth it.
Let’s take this braided bread for instance.
Admittedly, making this bread was no easy task. It had to do with the awfully hot weather and the fact that I did not adjust the amount of my liquid, making my dough so soft it was really difficult to manage. I had to think of some way to carry it into my baking sheet because my braid would stick onto my work surface.
I was determined not to let that small setback prevent me from succeeding here, and soon enough, all that was erased the moment the bread came out of the oven. Not only was it gorgeous, it was exceedingly delicious– oozing with savory webs of cheese (and I don’t even like cheese!), and bursting with flavour thanks to the onions and the barbecue sauce. I used Kraft’s Honey Mustard Barbecue Sauce for this and it was phenomenal. I can’t wait to try out other fillings and combinations!
I would say that the two best parts about making this bread was the braiding and then the eating. The bread itself is soft but with a decisive outside crunch, and is best eaten warm, while the cheese is still soft and slightly oozing. I’ve never braided bread before, so I was extremely excited to give this recipe a go. I was so happy to get to braid twice because this recipe makes two large loaves, and now you can be sure I am making more braids in the future!
Barbecue Chicken Braid
Makes 2 braids (or one dozen rolls)
For the French Bread Rolls
- 1 1/2 cups warm water, 110°F/45°C
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups bread flour
For the BBQ Chicken filling
- 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken*
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons
- 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
To make the dough
- 1. In a large mixer bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- 2. To the yeast mixture, add the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.
- 3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- 4. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two, equal-sized balls. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.*
- (If doing regular french rolls: Divide the dough into 12-14 equal pieces, and form into round balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart, then let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes. Bake for 12-13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.)
While the bread is rising, prepare the filling
- 5. Add the BBQ sauce and chopped onions to the chicken. Set aside until ready for use.
- 6. Towards the end of rising time, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- 7. Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 11- X 17-inch rectangle (I rolled mine out on a silpat liner for easy transfer to the baking sheet and oven).
- 8. Using a pizza cutter, knife, or dough cutter, cut 1-inch wide strips in towards the center, starting on the long sides. There should be a solid strip about 3 inches wide down the center, with the cut strips forming a fringe down each side.
- 9. Spread half of the barbecue sauce down the center strip. Top with the chicken, onions and cheese. Fold the side strips over filling, alternating strips from each side and pressing them into the dough on the opposite side, forming a braid. Pinch or twist to seal.
- 10. Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet and let rest for 15 minutes.
- 11. While the first round of dough is resting, follow the same steps above for the second portion of dough. Bake the first braid for 15-20 minutes (while the second braid is resting), until golden brown and bread is baked through. Remove from oven and bake the second braid.
- 12. Let the braids rest for 5 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut braid into sections, and serve warm.
**If you're not using the dough immediately, it can be refrigerated up to 2 days, or frozen up to 2 months. Adapted from Mangio da Sola blog