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

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. Heather

    In this post, you mention spritzing the bread with water, “To ensure that the seeds stick even better, spritz each strand with a bit of water.”

    I was wondering, what sort of a spray bottle do you use for spritzing? Can I just buy a cheap bottle at a grocery store, or do I need to make sure the plastic is food safe or something like that?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      A cheap bottle at the grocery store will work just fine. Just be sure that it is made from BPA-free plastic so no harmful chemicals will leach into the water that will then end up on your bread. (It should state this on the label or bottom of the bottle.) Happy spritzing! Kye@KAF

  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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

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