{Baking} FINNISH CHAI SPICE PULLA … Bread With a Twist for BBD!

“Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread; there may be.”
David Grayson
This month’s Bread Baking Day theme is Breads with a Twist! It’s been a while since I posted a bread, and when I saw Natashya’s call on FB, I said YES, count me in!! Ever since of course, the twist has been haunting me and coaxing me into baking bread. Power cuts galore held me back. Its been days of incessantly hot weather and long hours of power outage … global warming, power mismanagement, 46C+ … with the mercury rising & the situation worsening, the baker in me weeps!
Suddenly day before yesterday was a better day than others. We actually celebrated that the outage was just for 4 hours and not 8!! Yes, we truly bend backwards and count the small blessings in life, even if it means not getting power for 4 hours. So with things looking up, I got up early to get this bread dough going. It was what I wanted to bake for Natashya. It was a braid, it was pretty, it was sweet and it was from Julia’s gorgeous blog Melanger in Melbourne. A lady very talented, who got married recently. Now we happily have Mr Melanger who adds fine recommendations to her recipes as well. It takes 2 to tango, and in Melbourne they are doing a pretty good job!
Enough said, it was time for bread. I used to love doing braids, as in ‘plaiting tresses’! Am a bit out of practice as I haven’t been near braiding for a good 4 years. Until the daughter wasn’t a teen, she had lovely long locks which I used to French braid in a matter of minutes every morning before she left for school. Even her friends used to line up for me to braid their hair at times. Her braids were the talk of school, until the dreaded teenage years hit her! Braids were now history, and we faced Medusa’s locks! We now have untidy locks of unkempt looking hair, in her eyes all the time… so you can imagine how nostalgic it was for me to braid bread! Always a twist to fate and I set off very confident-ally to give the dough a French twist. Needless to say, it didn’t work out, ended in Greek tragedy, and I ate humble pie. The dough didn’t like my attempt, so it was kneaded right back, into dough, and divided into 3 ropes.
A simple braid was rising soon enough, got some conditioning from an egg white wash, got dressed up with some almonds, and rose to the occasion for Natashya @ Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. I used chai spice flavouring to spice the dough, a spice concentrate that I got from our trip to Mahabaleshwar. It lent mild spice flavour to the dough… cinnamon, cloves, cardamom; all subtle but like a gentle hint of goodness. I accentuated the chai spice flavours by adding a few drops to the icing on top, and it tied up the loaf nicely. I love the way it rose and baked gorgeously.
Bread Baking Day is a monthly celebration of bread baking all over the world, created by Zorra of Kochtopf . Read more about Bread Baking Day and access the previous roundups on her blog. This month’s Bread Baking Day theme is Breads with a Twist hosted by Natashya.
This bread is off to Susan @ Wild Yeast and has been ‘Yeastspotted’.

FINNISH PULLA
Adapted minimally from Julia @ Melangor
{I made half the recipe below, 1 biggish braid}
1 cup milk, lukewarm
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
10 gms fresh yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 drops chai spice
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 cups plain flour
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, beaten
Almond slices, toasted

Method:
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add one teaspoon of sugar and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast foams.
To the yeast, stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, chai spice, eggs, and enough flour to make a batter (approximately 2 cups).
Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 3 more cups of the flour and beat well. Add the melted butter and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff (you may not need all 5 cups).
Turn out of bowl onto a floured surface, cover with an inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Knead the dough until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled. About 1 hour.
Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 30 cm strand. Braid 3 strands into a loaf. Lift the loaves onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Let rise for 30 minutes.
Brush each loaf with egg white and sprinkle with almond slices along the centre of the braids.
Bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Check occasionally because the bottom can brown easily.
When cooled, drizzle with icing.
Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3tbsps hot water
2-3 drops chai spice
Mix till you get a thick and pourable icing. Adjust with extra sugar or water as required. Drizzle over the bread once baked.
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