I like to braid this loaf for two reasons. One it looks pretty and two, when I make this loaf on a Sunday it is nice to bake it about two hours before dinner, remove it from the oven to cool a little, then serve it warm and let people tear off a hunk. It will tear at the braids like dinner rolls would.
2 hours 15 minutes
two 4 x 8 loaves
2 1/2 cups
warm buttermilk, body temperature is good
Warm the buttermilk to body temperature. In other words when you stick a finger into it you shouldn’t feel it.
Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the tablespoon of yeast and the honey to it. Let the yeast dissolve either by whisking it or letting it bloom. Add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of bread flour, egg and salt.
Using a thick handled wooden spoon mix the dough in a circular fashion adding the softened butter once the dough has started to form. Once the dough has formed remove it from the bowl to a clean counter top and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and the gluten has formed. Consider this your workout for the day. Roll the dough into a tight ball.
Place the dough back into the bowl, cover it with a damp warm towel and set it in a warm place. Set a timer for 1 hour.
At the end of the hour punch down the dough and set the timer for another hour. At the end of this hour the dough should be doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll it into a ball and either divide it into thirds so you can roll it into logs and braid it or roll it into two big logs.
Place the loaves into prepared pans. I always oil and then shake flour into my pans. The thin coating of flour lets the baked bread easily release from the pan . Cover with a warm damp towel and let the dough rise for 40 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Once the loaves have doubled brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. You can also dust the tops with flour but if you do this don’t use the egg wash.
Bake the loaves in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes rotating them halfway through baking.
Remove the loaves from the oven and remove them from the bread pans to a rack and let them cool.