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Havarti Ham Apple Braid

Havarti Ham Apple Braid #bread |
I'm am such a sucker for a soft, pillowy pile of risen dough. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Ninety-nine percent of of the time (maybe more), it produces the type of bread that disappears in the blink of an eye in my house, as well. A soft white bread with a tender, sometimes chewy (depends on how it is formed and baked) interior, enclosed neatly inside a golden crust. That is exactly the category that this loaf falls into.

This braided loaf is my interpretation of this month's Bread Baking Babes challenge, as chosen by our hosting BBBabe kitchen of the month, Katie at Thyme for Cooking. Now, Katie's choice was actually a braid stuffed with caramelized onions, herbs, and cheese. I basically ignored that filling idea, instead going in an entirely different direction. It's not that I don't love caramelized onions (I totally do), my brain just wouldn't latch on to the concept this month. Apparently, I wanted meat.

So, the day before I made this loaf, I'd stopped at the deli and ordered a pound of shaved tavern ham (my favorite type of ham). While the slicer was doing its thang, the lady behind the counter got busy, and I got lost in thought. That resulted in what we'll call an enthusiastic pile of shaved hame. Apparently they don't want to stick any shaved ham in the deli case alongside the thicker slices (or she was just in a good mood), because after weighing out the pound and giving me that price, she threw the extra ham into the bag. Score!

Although we'd go through it just fine, I decided that making that ham part of the filling of my braid was definitely in order. To that, I added a beautifully buttery aged Havarti cheese. Apples were the next logical step. That would have been fine all by itself, but it was begging for a little something more.
Havarti Ham Apple Braid #bread |
There's this spice blend from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook that they sprinkle over their Ham and Cheese Pastry Puffs that I love. It's a mixture of some warming spices, some savory spice, and a little heat. It adds a hint of beautiful complexity. It needed to be a part of this bread. So it was.

Fortunately, the BBBabes are all about taking a "base" recipe, and making it your own. To see what twists and turns the other BBBabes took, be sure to click through and see their breads (links at bottom of post). Plus, if you want to join us, just make your version of the bread (as-is or adapted) and send it to Katie by the 29th!

Havarti Ham Apple Braid
A fluffy, tender braid of bread filled with a line of aged havarti, tavern ham, thinly sliced apples, and a pleasing savory spice blend.
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Havarti Ham Apple Braid
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 2.5 hours (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: bake bread nut-free soy-free apples cheese flour ham

Ingredients (1 loaf)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (~110° F)
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups (455 g) all-purpose flour + more for work surface
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
for filling and topping:
  • 6 ounces Aged Havarti cheese, shredded, divided (I recommend Castello)
  • 4 ounces shaved ham
  • 12 thin slices of apple
  • 1/2 teaspoon savory spice blend (recipe follows) + more to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with a dribble of water
  • coarse salt
Combine water, honey, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk, oil, eggs and yolks. Add the flour and salt, and stir with a wooden spoon, until you can't stir any longer.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky. Set in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

*Or make the dough in your bread machine. Just add the ingredients in the order listed—though I'd probably use yeast formulated for a bread machine if you go with this option—choose the dough cycle, and come back when it beeps. It'll combat the need to wrestle with a sticky dough.

Lightly flour your work surface, then turn the now soft and pillowy risen dough out onto it. Push and pat it into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to gently roll it out into a 14" x 12" rectangle.
rolled out dough
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then carefully lift your dough up and set it on top of the parchment. Scatter most of the cheese in a 3" wide line lengthwise down the center of the dough (set a good handful aside for scattering on top of the dough later). Evenly scatter the shaved ham over the cheese. Line the apple slices across the top of the ham. Scatter with the savory spice blend and a couple pinches of salt.
laying down the layer of filling
Using kitchen shears (or a metal bench scraper or knife), start at one corner of the dough, and make diagonal cuts that are 1-inch apart along one side of the dough, leaving a little bit of space between the end of the cut and the line of filling. Flip the tray around, and repeat on the opposite side. Fold strips over the filling, alternating strips from each side (to resemble a braid).
braiding the dough
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 30-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° F during last 20 minutes of rise time.

Remove the plastic and brush the top of the loaf with a sheen of egg wash. Scatter the reserved cheese over the top. Sprinkle with a little bit more of the spice blend (add some coarse salt and/or sesame seeds here, if you wish).
risen dough with toppings
Slide into preheated oven and bake for ~45 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack, or serve warm.

If you'd like to store this, be sure to cool it all the way, then wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for up to a day, and reheat in the oven before serving.

to make the savory spice blend:
Combine all of the following ingredients in a small jar or baggie and shake to combine: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Add some salt, if you wish (or just do that on an as needed basis when adding to a recipe). I also like to mix it up by throwing in some sesame seeds sometimes. Seal jar or baggie and store in a cool, dark spot.

-bread adapted from Canadian Living, spice blend adapted slightly from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
Havarti Ham Apple Braid #bread |
Bread Baking Babes October 2014 challenge

The Bread Baking Babes (current dozen) are:

The Bread Baking Buddies are: YOU!

So which Babe is the hosting kitchen this month?  That would be Katie at Thyme for Cooking, if you'd like to join in, simply make Caramelized Onion, Herb and Cheese Bread (or whatever it winds up being) - and then send Katie your link (info in her announcement post).  Submissions are due by October 29th.  Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along.  I hope you'll join us this month!

I am also sharing this with Susan's Yeastspotting!