When this tumultuous week first began, I had high hopes of baking a traditional challah bread in recognition of this being the week of Chanukah. However, upon an initially innocuous run to the store for some last minute baking supplies, I had a rather unfortunate (but thankfully painless) run in with a hit-and-run driver. So, with my trip to the store rather forcefully postponed, I’ve finally been able to get back into the kitchen! Now, with the holiday week ending tomorrow, I made a last minute decision to try a wonderfully braided bread recipe that’s inspired by challah, but, after reading up on this ancient loaf, most certainly can not claim to be challah bread. However, keep an eye out for my (most likely woeful) attempt at weaving challah bread in the Spring, nearer to the time of Purim, a celebration that’s main focus is freedom and feasting: two things that are truly near to my heart!
Without further ado, let’s dive back into breakfast with a loaf of braided spinach and ricotta bread!
Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread Recipe
Ingredients for Filling:
- 10 ounces of cooked, drained spinach
- 3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for Dough:
- 2 eggs (save one for an egg wash)
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
- 1 cup all purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (about half of one packet)
- Sesame seeds to garnish
- In an empty frying pan/skillet, toast the 1/4 cup of pine nuts over medium high heat. Toss or stir the nuts every 30 seconds for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the nuts start turning brown and smell toasted. Place toasted pine nuts in a bowl to completely remove them from the heat.
- Drain your spinach as much as possible and place in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and flour to the spinach. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover your bowl and refrigerate until needed.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, sugar, oil, salt, and warm water.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and the yeast. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix to form a rough dough.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until springy, or about five minutes.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise for 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer your risen dough to the baking sheet, and stretch it diagonally into an oval that reaches both corners of the sheet and is around 6-8 inches wide (see pictures below).
- Place your filling in the center of the dough, and shape it into a column that is no more than 2 inches wide and leaves about 1 inch of room at the top and bottom.
- Starting at the top, cut uniform strips into the sides of the dough on the diagonal (about 1 inch wide). Fold the top of the dough over the filling.
- To braid your bread: fold one strip over the filling, and then overlap with a strip on the other side; repeat until you reach the end of your bread. Before overlapping the final strips, fold the bottom flap of the bread up over the filling, and then cover with the remaining strips.
- Beat your remaining egg in a small bowl, and brush the top of the bread with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Enjoy a warm slice of beautiful, braided bread, bursting with flavors of the season!
As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s (delayed) breakfast recipe! Be sure to stop in this Saturday for a bubbly remedy for all that ails ye!