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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romanian Easter Braid | #BreadBakingBabes

Romanian Easter Braid
Today is the 16th, and that means it's time for another Bread Baking Babes reveal!  This month, BBBabe Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms challenged us to bake up a Romanian Easter Braid. Easter may be over, but I'm pretty sure this enriched loaf would be welcome at any table year-round. The dough itself is lightly scented with lemon from the addition of some finely grated zest, and the filling is a sweet, nutty swirl that be switched up to meet anybody's preferences.

So, Elle told us that according to wiki, this Romanian bread can differ significantly from region to region. Essentially it's a sweet bread that is enriched with butter, eggs and milk, but you can find anything from the lemon zest I used to orange zest, raisins, or rum flavor in the dough itself. The actual recipe the challenge is based on used ground almonds in the filling, but I went with one of the more well-known options, walnuts. Hazelnuts, vanilla, rum, even poppy seeds, raisins, or cocoa powder are other choices.

 I did want to add a little twist to my nutty swirl, though. I liked the thought of adding rum (obviously), but I wanted something a little out of the ordinary, as well. I have a few bottles of flavored rum, and I thought the coconut variety might add a little something special if I also used some fat, dried coconut flakes. I was pretty pleased with the taste of the filling (I had to walk away from my spoon lest there be none left once the dough was ready for it).

Here's the thing though—I was kind of winging it with amounts when it came to the filling. I was cobbling bits and pieces together, trying to base the amounts of the ingredients on the original filling in the recipe. What I wound up with was a bit soupy. I didn't want to cook it down much further because I'd already beat in an egg that I didn't want to scramble. So, I decided to let it sit while the dough finished rising with hopes that it would magically get thick. It didn' least not thick enough. I was pretty sure it would be an epic mess if I tried to fill the dough with it. But alas, I often do things against my better judgement, just to see what will happen.
Romanian Easter Braid
I went ahead and basically poured it into my rolled out dough. It seeped out the seams as expected. I pushed ahead anyway. Due to the fact that I couldn't work the dough at all without losing all of my filling, my "ropes" were shorter than they could have been, leading to a pretty squat braid. And of course, it wasn't smooth (though the dough itself was gorgeous, a real dream to work with) since the filling had become the garnish, as well.

Fearing I'd have to pry my loaf from the baking sheet after 40 minutes, I threw caution to the wind and slid it into the oven anyway. Midway through baking, it did start smelling burnt, so I opened the oven and slid a spatula under the bread to loosen it. It was just the filling that had seeped out onto the pan that smelled, the rest looked like it was coming along as it should be.

After the ding of the timer, I removed a beautiful, fat bread braid from the oven. I played it smart and transferred the loaf to a rack immediately, then scraped the dark filling from the baking sheet. Turns out, I got a tasty loaf and my baking sheet didn't become a casualty of a kitchen war. Win!

Saying this bread had an insane amount of oven-spring would be an understatement. I was a bit blown away, even though some of the other BBBabes mentioned theirs had had a great deal, as well. I listed a lower amount of milk in my recipe than I used, so if you make it based on mine, start low and dribble it in until you have a spreadable, but still thick-ish consistency. Or switch up the filling entirely. Either way, I think you'll be pleased that you tried this bread if you take the challenge!

Romanian Easter Braid w/ Walnut-Coconut-Rum Filling
This Romanian Easter bread is a sweet braid, lightly infused with the scent of lemon and swirled with a filling made from walnuts, coconut, and rum.
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Romanian Easter Braid
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: bake bread coconut walnuts Easter Romanian

Ingredients (1 loaf)
    for the dough:
    • 2/3 cup lukewarm milk
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 455 grams (~3 1/2 cups) bread flour
    • 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
    for the filling:
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 tablespoons (or more) milk
    • 2 tablespoons coconut rum (or regular rum)
    • 1 heaping cup walnuts
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes
    • 1 egg
    for the glaze:
    • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, optional (or a little heavy cream)
    Place all ingredients for dough in the pan of a bread machine in the order listed (or as suggested by the manufacturer). Select dough setting and allow it to mix, knead, and rise.

    In the meantime, make the filling by putting the walnuts and coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulsing until finely ground. Combine the sugar, milk, and rum in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl. Heat until warm, stir to be sure the sugar has melted in. Stir in the walnut mixture. If mixture seems to thick to stir, dribble in just a bit more milk. Microwave for another 2 minutes, or until steaming. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes before beating in the egg; set aside.

    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 7"x16" rectangle. Spread 1/3 of the filling over each section, leaving a 1/2" border on all but one long edge. Starting at the long edge with filling, roll up jellyroll-style, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat until you have 3 filled and sealed ropes.

    Braid the ropes and place them on a baking sheet that has been greased or lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick spray on the underside. Allow to rise for 30 minutes (cover loosely with plastic, if  you like. Since my filling leaked out, I chose not to).

    Preheat oven to 350° F.

    Brush with egg wash or heavy cream, if using (I didn't use any since my filling seeped out and over the bread a bit). Slide into preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until done. Cool on a wire rack.

    -dough based on a recipe from The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler
    Romanian Easter Braid

    April 2015 Bread Baking Babes challenge: Romanian Easter Bread
    This month's Bread Baking Babes challenge is Romanian Easter Braid, as chosen by the BBBabes host kitchen of the month, Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms.

    Would you like to bake along and earn your Bread Baking Buddies badge? It's easy! Simply make a Romanian Easter Braid in your kitchen, and then send Elle your link (more info in her post) by the 29th of the month. I hope you'll join us!

    Check out this month's Bread Baking Babes posts (updated as posted):
    Cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread) from blog from OUR kitchen
    Romanian Easter Braid from Notitie van Lien
    Romanian Easter Braid w/ Walnut-Coconut-Rum Swirl from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
    Romanian Easter Bread from My Kitchen in Half Cups
    Romanian Spring Braid from Feeding My Enthusiasms
    Sourdough Romanian Easter Braid from Bread Experience
    Roundup: Bread Baking Babes Celebrate Spring with a Twist from Thyme for Cooking

    I am sharing this with Susan's Yeastspotting.