Easy Braided Bread

I’m in a major soup mood now that it’s Fall, and when I decided to make this excellent Creamy Southwest Pumpkin Soup from Southern Living I thought it might need a bread item to go with it. Just to make things interesting, I decided to make a braided bread loaf.

Y’all, it was so simple! Why haven’t I tried this before? I made the pizza dough recipe you’ll doubtless recall from my post on Totally Excellent Breadsticks and instead of making a pizza crust or dinner rolls or breadsticks with it, I divided it into three portions, rolled each portion out, and braided them into a loaf, tucking each end under. I did the braiding directly on my baking sheet lined with my Silpat liner, but you could just grease a baking sheet instead. I let the loaf rise uncovered as I washed the dishes and preheated the oven, and then I baked it at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and it came out about the size of a big loaf of Italian bread or challah from the store, except I made it at home for pennies. I think it was kind of pretty.

Someday I will probably have to write an e-book called “101 Fun Things To Do With Crystal’s Pizza Dough Recipe” but until then I’ll leave you with the basic dough recipe, because Rose asked for it a long time ago.

Basic Dough Recipe
1) Dissolve 1 Tablespoon yeast in 1 cup hot water
2) Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
3) Add 2.5 cups flour
4) Use the dough hook of your mixer (if you’re using your mixer) or mix and knead by hand until a soft dough forms. If dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
5) Press into a greased pizza pan for pizza dough, or roll into little balls for dinner rolls, or roll out into ropes for breadsticks, or shape a long loaf, or make hamburger rolls, or hot dog buns, or roll out into flat strips and brush with butter and brown sugar and roll up for cinammon rolls, etc etc etc. (I have done all these variations, plus more, and it’s worked every time.)
6) Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.

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