I think that it is important for you to know that I am eating two slices of this drool-worthy bread as I write this…just a sec…

…*chewing*…oh my goodness: it is out of control.

I am sort of a “been there, done that” bread baker, and so it takes a fairly impressive bread recipe to truly get me excited. When I stumbled upon this one, my saliva glands went into overdrive.

The original recipe’s bread is stuffed with crumbled feta cheese and a whack of dill, is braided, and then baked until golden, crusty, and delicious. Uhh, yum! Being that I am not one to leave well enough alone, I fancied it up even more, and the result was absurdly good. So much so that Anthony and I sat together on the couch and debriefed the experience for a little while. And then we talked about it a little bit more as we moseyed back to the kitchen for another serving.

This is basically a fancy-pants sandwich, and it would be fabulous served alongside some yummy soup. That was my original plan, but then time got away from me, so the soup’ll have to wait until tomorrow. And it’ll be gooood when paired with our leftover stuffed bread.

Mediterranean Bread Braid

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

Ingredients

Bread:

1 1/2 cups warm (100-110 degrees F.) water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached white flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Filling:

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup softened cream cheese (I used herb flavoured, but you could simply use plain or even low fat)

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill weed

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

4-5 green onions, sliced

2-3 Tbsp capers, drained

1/3 cup sliced olives (kalamata, green, or mixed – I used spicy mixed olives)

1 whole head of garlic, roasted and smooshed into a paste (see here for a how-to on roasting garlic)

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 egg

1 tablespoon poppy, sesame, or flax seeds, optional

Directions

– In your stand mixer’s bowl (or a large mixing bowl) combine the water, the yeast, and a tsp of sugar. Set the bowl aside and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes, until foamy. Add the sugar, salt, oil, and 2 cups flour. Start kneading the ingredients, slowly adding the remaining flour. Continue kneading until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, approximately 8-10 minutes. Turn the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in bulk.

– In a separate bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the filling, with the exception of the sesame/poppy/flax seeds. Set aside.

– Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour on a smooth work surface and roll the bread dough to an approximately 10″ by 24″ rectangle, sprinkling additional flour on the dough as needed to avoid stickiness. Cut the dough in half; into two 10″ by 12″ rectangles.
– For each dough rectangle (with the narrower side toward you), spoon the prepared filling in a narrow vertical strip down the center of the dough. Using a knife, cut the dough into a 3″ “fringe” on both sides of the filling. Starting from the top, alternately cross the opposing left and right fringes over each other until the bread is fully braided. Tuck in the ends. Sprinkle the poppy, sesame, or flax seeds over the top of each braid, if using.
– Place both on a large oiled baking sheet (or 2 sheets, if necessary), cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk, somewhere between 30-60 minutes.
– While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned. If you prefer your bread to be very crusty, place a heatproof pan of boiling water in the oven during the baking period.
– Cool and then slice on a bias for a beautiful presentation!

Mmm! Soooooo good. Just try not to eat the entire loaf…

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