Seeded braids: Baby, baby I'm stuck on you

SeededBraidBread

Your reading glasses, that pair of earrings, and of course your cell phone. Some things just never seem to stay where you put them. Take sesame seeds, for example.

In the past, any time that I had tried to put seeds on a loaf of bread most of them had to be scooped up and sprinkled back on the bread after slicing. Like blueberries in Sal’s bucket they would plink, plank, plunk off the sides and top of the loaf – leaving it stripped down to its bare skin, as it were.

Sure, I had tried the egg wash route and it certainly did help, but what a slippery mess it could be to deal with. Oh woe, how could I get my loaves to look like professional loaves? Luckily a hard day’s work with a group of professional bakers provided the answer.

A couple of years ago I was working in our Baking Education Center with our Master Baker Jeff Hamelman. I was the assistant for the day in one of the professional classes and as luck would have it, they were making seeded braids that day. What followed was a truly eye-opening experience, and one I’ve been happy to share with other bakers ever since.

Are you ready to learn a great new trick that can take your seeded loaves and braids to a whole new level? Let’s go!

Start with your favorite bread dough, made by hand or machine. While the dough is rising, prepare three baking sheets or parchment-lined work areas.

The first will have a slightly damp, lint-free kitchen towel on it. The second will be a baking sheet with an even layer of your seeds of choice; and the third will be a resting place for the seeded strands after they’ve been coated. This can be the same parchment-lined baking sheet on which the shaped and seeded loaf will rise and bake.

Divide the dough into thirds. Pat each piece into a small rectangle, then fold in thirds as you would fold a business letter. Use the side of your hand to seal the seam firmly, and press forward like a bulldozer to tighten the outer skin of the strand.

Gently roll the strand 14″ long.

Here comes the key to getting those seeds to stick to every little bit of your bread.

Lift the strand and place it on the slightly dampened lint-free towel. Gently roll back and forth to coat the whole strand with a light layer of moisture.

The moisture mixes with a bit of the starch in the flour and forms a surface that’s sticky and works like glue.

Immediately place the damp strand onto the seed-lined tray, rolling back and forth to coat the entire strand in seeds.

Wowza, that’s what I call seed-coated!

Empty and clean the seed tray, then repeat the process with your remaining strands and different seeds. Here I used black sesame seeds (l), golden flax seeds (c) and caraway seeds (r).

To ensure that the seeds stick even better, spritz each strand with a bit of water. This will also help your braided strands cling to each other.

Braid up the loaf and place it on a baking sheet to rise for another 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaf reads 190°F. If you’re making a no-knead bread or heavy, whole-grain loaf, the internal temperature should read 200°F to 205°F.

So lovely, and so seeded!

Now, some seeds will naturally flake off during slicing and serving. But there should be plenty still left to make your loaves both handsome and tasty.

Alternately, you can place the loaf in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Rise as directed and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Why the time change? The bread will be thicker and denser in the center, so it needs more time and a lower temperature to bake properly. The same internal temperatures would still apply.

Can’t you just hear the ooohs and aaahs as folks slice into this bread? This particular loaf went to our customer service department for MYOGCD, a.k.a. Make Your Own Grilled Cheese Day. My sammie had this bread; sliced Granny Smith apple, and smoked Vermont cheddar, and was grilled to perfection by my boss, Matt. Grilled Cheese Day was his thank-you gift to the department for putting in 110% on our big email drive. Thank YOU Matty!

I hope this technique will inspire you to try seeded breads and braids if you haven’t before; or give you a new way to boost the beauty of your favorite loaf.

Happy baking!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. glpruett

    Oh, my goodness, MJ, you’ve done it yet AGAIN! As any home baker knows, getting seeds to stick, and to STAY, is one trick we’ve never learned! It’s just like when we had our puppy in training classes: learning to STAY was the very hardest lesson for him! It was just so much more fun to run after his new family, or the other dogs, or the trainer…but I digress…
    And now, with Jeff Hamelman’s help and MJ’s inimitable writing, we’ve got the know-how! Thank you ever so much. I’m off to the kitchen now to start a batch of bread dough rising, so I can put this into practice before I forget! And I’m definitely going to bake my braided, seeded loaf in a loaf pan rather than on a baking sheet, as I love the look of the seeds in the sliced loaf bread! Thank you!
    I tell you, I was pretty surprised and impressed with how lovely the interior of that particular bread was. And it made a great grilled cheese too. Have fun and let me know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. duboce

    This seems like an awful lot of work. I use a pastry brush and egg white, coat the bread, apply the seeds. If you don’t want to use a real egg to obtain the egg white, you can use the low cholesterol egg whites from the carton or you can use powdered egg white and make it by the spoonful, just the amount you would need.
    The egg or egg white method definitely gets the job done, no doubt. I’ve just always found it messy and slippery compared to this wet cloth method. The important thing is to use what works well for you. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. jlgirl617

    Question: assuming that you don’t want the seeds throughout the braided loaf, could you braid it first and then brush very lightly with water using a pastry brush, and then heavily sprinkle the seeds, maybe pressing them in gently to help them adhere? Depending on how stiff the dough is, maybe you could roll the whole braid…?
    Sure! That would be a fine idea! ~Amy

    Reply
  4. jtashland

    I thought it would be a more complicated process. What a great tip. I can’t wait to try this out.
    I know, it’s so easy, isn’t it? Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. knemeyer

    Great post! I tend to stay away from seeded breads because it turns out to be a big mess and a waste of seeds. Now I am so gonna make some!
    Have fun, and send pics to our FB page if you’d like. We loves to see the pictures! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. solsken

    i feel like this is one of those “face-palm” moments that makes complete sense and I should have thought of it before.

    I’m going to do this when I make my Passover Kichel on sunday – so the sugar sticks perfectly!
    HI there,
    I did this with sugar as well, using table sugar, sparkling white sugar and turbinado sugar. It was lovely and crunchy and it went fast in the break room. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. rkrkrme

    You can also brush the top/sides of the (dough) bread with a egg water mixture, one tso water to egg. Than sprinkle on the seed you desire.
    You sure can go the egg route, I just find this a lot faster and less messy. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. jellysquare

    Looks fabulous. Wish you would have shown the braiding process. Can’t imagine all of those seeds stayed in place, but it looks like they did. Do you show braiding in another blog?
    We have done quite a few blogs with braids, 3, 4 and even 6 strands. Just click on “blog” then use “braid” as your search word. I just bought myself a new book all on braiding breads, so stay tuned for more beautiful plaits in blogs to come. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. chocolatechipkt

    That’s great! And I love the triple-seed look … I’m definitely going to have to try that one. Thanks!
    There are so many choices for seeds, each bread becomes unique. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  10. candela_59

    Great method. Now I have what is probably a dumb question but here goes. How do you keep the seeds on your bread when baked in a loaf pan and then you have turn it over to get it out of the pan? I always lose most of my toppings when trying to get the loaf out of the pan!
    Hi there,
    When I bake seeded breads in a loaf pan, I try to turn the pan on its side and take the loaf out like sliding a letter out of an envelope, instead of turning the pan upside down. Less trauma, more seeds stay in place. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. Kasha the FarmGirl

    What a beautiful loaf of bread! Stunning, and I cannot wait to try this!
    The FarmGirl Cooks
    Be sure to send along a link if you do a blog, we’d love to see it Kasha. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. salmeitz

    I love this tip…but what I like even more is make your own grilled cheese day! What a great idea. Perfect for our teachers’ lounge–maybe with a crockpot of homemade tomato soup!
    Yes, we did have the soup too, thanks to our team leader, Tara. It was a great way to be social and enjoy each others company even just for a little while. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Arlene

    Beautiful loaf ! Do you have a pictorial on how to make this beautiful braid ? And what to do with the “ends”.

    Thanks
    We’ve done a few blogs that include braids, including this Challah blog. Scroll way down to see the braiding process. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. rochelle_keefer

    I have a full bag of Everything Bagel Topping that’s been staring at me for a couple months. Thank you for the inspiration! I’m going to try the braid in the loaf pan. It looks gorgeous!

    Reply
  15. Bridgid

    I LOVE this! Crazy thought – can we do this with swirled cinnamon bread and roll the bread in cinnamon & sparkling white sugar? Or with challah & 3 different colored sparkling sugars? I was also thinking how would this look with the 6 strand braid & 6 colors of sparkling sugar? Someday, MJ, my baked goods will be as pretty as yours. I’ll just keep reading your instructions & follow through!

    I love the idea of the cinnamon sugar twist idea! Just to be sure to really grease the pan up so it doesn’t stick so much! Please let us know if you attempt this at home. We’d love to see the final results! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  16. waikikirie

    Hi MJ….I know you said in the blog to use our favorite bread recipe, but I’m curious. Which one did you use??? Can’t wait to try this one. I think I’ll wait until I have family over. More “oohhh and aahhhhss” over the beauty of this…teehee…..

    I do believe that MJ used the Life Skills Basic Bread recipe!-Jon

    Reply
  17. pianogrl

    THAT is the coolest bread I have ever seen! I’m running to the store for yet MORE flour so I can bake this one today!

    I am loving this blog…I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from all of you! Thanks!

    Reply
  18. glpruett

    Here’s a quick follow-up, MJ.i made the KAF “Potato Bread Perfect for Toast” recipe, using 100% white whole wheat flour, divided it into three braids and used sesame, flax and poppy seeds to coat each strand. It was gorgeous! My husband commented, “Wow! That’s beautiful bread!” It always does a baker’s heart good to be appreciated! The only thing I will change next time is to substitute a different seed for the flax. With as many seeds as stuck to the strand, the flax was a little “oily” tasting to me. Live and learn! Maybe I’ll use sunflower seeds next time!
    I did take the time to go to “blog”, type in “braid” in the search box, and I reviewed several of the blog posts on braiding. What a good reminder of some basic (and some unusual!) techniques! Thanks again!

    Great to hear that our method worked so well for you! It really does feel nice to receive appreciation when you are baking for others.-Jon

    Reply
  19. tabfanatic

    If using the Life Skills Basic, do you use the entire recipe for a single braided loaf? Looking for something a little special for Easter- thanks KAF!

    The Life Skills recipe actually makes two loaves of the smaller braided bread. The larger loaf pan version was made from one recipe of our Italian 101 Bread.-Jon

    Reply
  20. annewilson41

    It works! I was making my favorite oatmeal bread and tried it with the rolled oats I like to put on top of the loaf. Rather than use a damp towel (I’m all about simple!) I used my everpresent water bottle and just spritzed the top of the loaf a couple of times (that’s two spritzes to cover the loaf), let it stand for a minute then rolled it in the pile of oats on the counter. They stayed on through rising, baking, being put in a plastic bread bag, and most important through slicing and toasting. This is a WINNER!

    Great to hear that our tip worked so well for you!-Jon

    Reply

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