This challenge comes out a little late for Easter baking, but doesn't this bread look pretty enough for a spring day...or any day? Using any colors you want, you can create a rainbow or go along with some other theme. I set out to make a pastel Easter bread but I immediately went overboard on the purple dough. So I was forced to run with it and ended up with a bright and beautiful loaf of honey lemon bread! This sweet and tangy bread is light, yet sturdy, so it makes great toast and french toast.
You can find lots of tutorials online for braiding breads, and any of them will work great with this dough. I chose to make a 6 stranded braid, and here's how:
How to braid a 6 strand loaf of bread:
Take your balls of dough one at a time and create six strands about 16 inches long with slightly tapered ends. Line them up in rainbow order, or random if you prefer, and pinch at the top to secure the end. Then take the strand on the right and weave it to the left over two strands, under one strand and over two strands. Repeat with the next strand on the right, then the next on the right, and so on until you reach the bottom. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the loaf.
Makes 1 large braided loaf
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lemon juice, plus the zest of one lemon
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon oil
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed for kneading
6 pastel shades of gel food coloring
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
In large mixing bowl combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
To the yeast mixture add the lemon juice and zest, honey, oil, eggs, salt and flour and stir until the dough wads up in a ball around the spoon. Add more flour if necessary to make this happen. Knead on a well floured surface for several minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and tacky but not super sticky. It helps to wash your hands of any dough a couple times through this process.
Break the dough into 6 equal size pieces. Wearing gloves, knead about 1/8 teaspoon of gel coloring into each ball of dough. Knead each piece of dough until the coloring is completely mixed in.
Transfer dough to an oiled platter or sheet pan, turning to coat the dough in oil. Cover with a kitchen towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the balls of dough. Braid as shown above, rolling the dough on a lightly greased surface and braiding the dough on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Brush the dough with your egg wash. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow to triple in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the loaf with another egg wash. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Cool on a wire rack. Slice when slightly warm and serve with butter and honey.