Yesterday was busy. I took a day off from university to get done some serious things. Like baking a sweet German braided bread. As everyday I woke up quite early at six. Now, when the sun is already rising, mornings become so lively. I open the windows wide and listen to the birds for a few minutes. Sitting on the windowsill and watching how the peaceful nature awakens is just beautiful. Better than yoga, I promise.
These spring feelings made me crave a fruity smoothie for breakfast which I shared with my mum that day. I really enjoy mornings with my genially mother. Spending the first minutes of a day in good company is taking me to another energy level. After finishing breakfast I started my day off with a long and releasing run followed by a just as long session of writing on a term paper for statistics. Which was definitely not fun. My head was all about numbers and formulas, samples and populations.
It was already afternoon when I remembered that I forgot to have lunch. So I decided on a freshly baked sweet German bread as an afternoon snack. We call these braided breads ‚Hefezopf‘. They are sweet, moist and super soft. In Germany we love to have sweet breads especially for Easter. Most people eat them with butter and jam, but I love them as they come. The braiding might look complicated but baking this traditional Hefezopf never was easier. This day I decided to fill my braided bread with homemade apple sauce and hazelnuts to give an extra crunch.
The secret of getting a super soft and moist bread is the right amount of flour and a long long kneading. I usually sift the flours together and add the flour little by little until the dough is not sticky anymore. And then it’s all about kneading until there is enough air incorporated into the dough. You can notice the right consistency of the dough by listening to it’s hissing sounds when kneading. When I used whole wheat flour I sometimes even could hear kind of burping or farting sounds….yes. The kneading process might take about ten minutes.
Braided Apple and Hazelnut Bread
makes one big loaf
250g wholegrain spelt flour
350g light spelt flour
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
30g fresh yeast
300ml soy milk
80ml maple syrup
50g vegan butter
2 large apples
4 pitted dates
Sift together the flour and give two thirds into a large bowl. Add salt and lemon zest. Then form a hollow in the middle of the flour and crumble in the yeast. On the stove bring soy milk, maple syrup and butter to 40°C (104°F). Pour the milk mixture into the hollow over the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve with the milk mixture by stirring gently. Then cover with a kitchen towel for ten minutes. Now start with kneading the dough for about ten minutes. Add the remaining flour little by little until the dough isn’t sticky anymore. Cover an let the dough rise for 60 minutes at a warm place. In the meantime prepare the apple sauce. Cut the apples and let them simmer on the stove with 50ml of water until the water disappeared and the apples became soft. In a small bowl cover the dates with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes. With an immersion blender mix the apples together with the dates (without the covering water). Then chop the hazelnuts roughly.
Roll out the dough into a baking tray sized rectangle on a floured surface. Spread the apple sauce all over and sprinkle two thirds of the hazelnuts on top. Carefully lift one third of the dough (closest to you) and fold it two thirds up. Then fold down the top third. With a sharp knife cut the rectangle lengthwise into three strands. Then carefully start braiding. Transfer the braid to a lined baking tray, cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F). Bake the bread for about 25 to 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Ps: Yeast dough is very sensitive to temperature. Make sure not to open a window during the rising process.