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December 9: Intertwined

It’s no secret that I love to cook…a lot. And sometimes my cooking and knitting become intertwined.

the Cook…
bread.jpgI love to make bread. It started with a bread machine eons ago. I no longer use my machine except to mix dough and have graduated to breads that begin with a starter, also known as a biga or poolish. Yes, I actually know the difference between the two but I won’t bore you with random cooking trivia.

My favorite bread to bring to holiday dinners is my Braided Italian Loaf. I sometimes bake it just before leaving the house and serve warm, but more often I bake it a few hours ahead and serve cold. It is quite delicious either way. The trouble with other breads I like to make (croissants, crusty hard rolls, and the like) is that you really need to prepare them where they’re to be served. The beautifully risen dough can collapse in transport, especially in cold weather. And if you are able to avoid catastrophe during transport, good luck finding an empty oven just before dinner time.

the Knitter…
cabledpidge.jpgA few years ago I had a vision in my head of a braided cabled pidge knit with super-chunky yarn. I found several braided cables in my many stitch dictionaries that would have been perfect…except all of them required way too many stitches for my chunky-monkey yarn. After much toiling and head-scratching I realized that the braid I was seeing in my head was identical to my Braided Italian Bread. After visualizing how I braid the dough, I grabbed a pencil and some graph paper and translated it into yarn.

Cooking & Knitting become intertwined…
The results were perfect, creating one of our best-selling patterns. Other criteria for this design was that it feature a simple cable and be very quick to make. You can knit one of these in only a few hours. A perfect holiday project - you can knit the pidge while you wait for your bread to rise!
The yarn is a luxurious alpaca blend, Blue Sky Bulky. The pidge takes 2 skeins. If you’d like an equally nice, more economical choice - one skein of Brown Sheep’s Burly Spun will do the trick too.

from my Home to yours…
I think you know where I’m going with this post. Today we have a double prize - my Braided Italian Loaf recipe -and- a free Cabled Pidge pattern. The bread recipe will stick around, but the pidge pattern will be gone tomorrow so download it today!

Oops, you’re too late for the free pattern, but you can still Download the Cabled Pidge pattern from our website for $5.

Braided Italian Loaf

    1 cup cool water
    2 cups bread flour (unbleached)
    1/4 t instant yeast

    Combine biga ingredients, mixing just until cohesive. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at least 12 hours at room temperature. Biga will be filled with bubbles and craters. This is when I exclaim “the biga is getting bigga!

    1/2 cup cool water
    2 - 2 1/2 cups bread flour
    2 t instant yeast
    1 1/2 t salt

    While the dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand, it is much easier if you use a bread machine (dough setting) or a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
    Add water to the biga and mix until smooth. Add flour, yeast and salt. Knead until fairly smooth (about 3 minutes w/ a mixer or 5 minutes by hand). Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Rise at room temperature for 90 minutes, deflating the dough and turning it over every 30 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Divide the dough into thirds. With your hands, form into a rope approximately 18-22″ long. Braid the three ropes, pinching the beginning and end, tucking them underneath loaf. Place bread on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Loaf should be puffy, but not so puffy that the braid begins to separate.

    Beat 1 egg white with 1 T of water and gently brush over top and sides of loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

    For best results…
    *Fill a plant mixer with warm water. Spritz the oven several times before placing the bread in the oven, and several times during the first 10-15 minutes of cooking for a crispy crust.
    *Never use metal bowls for bread making. While they make fancy bowls just for bread, a simple glass bowl will do the trick.
    *A non-stick cooking spray like Pam is perfect for greasing your bowl and pan.
    *First rule of bread making - if it feels wrong it is wrong. Dough crumbly? Don’t be afraid to add water. Dough so sticky it turns to goo? More flour is in order. Perfectly measured ingredients will not make perfect bread. Follow your intuition instead.
    *Last but not least, always serve homemade bread with real butter. Faux butter and real bread…makes me cringe just thinking about it.


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3 Responses to “December 9: Intertwined”

  1. Sherie Says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe and the pattern; we will definitely enjoy both. We are both bread bakers as well and our tradition is that Harry makes homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Of course, that’s our one morning to sleep late after a hectic Christmas season and late Christmas Eve service, so they generally turn out ready for lunch instead of breakfast!

  2. BeckyB Says:

    Oh, the bread sounds so wonderful. I love hot homemade bread. But the problem is that if I make it, I eat it and that would not be so good because I don’t know when to quit! So, I better just stick to knitting.

  3. Cassa Says:

    Thank you for the pattern, it might just go to good use!