What a mouthful. But a delicious and healthy mouthful! This whole wheat apple walnut braid was born during the second half of the Broncos’ game, and everyone at my house felt grateful for the smell of a sweet and yeasty loaf when the Broncos lost (painfully) in overtime. There is nothing like a warm oven and a freshly baked loaf of bread to soothe wounded pride.
But despite the Bronco game, we had a good weekend. And it all started with that awe-inspiring fetal heartbeat. Ryan and I are lucky enough to be working with an ob/gyn that is a personal friend of the family. She has lived up the street from my parents for as long as we’ve been in Colorado, and I used to baby-sit her babies when I was in middle and high school. We had an appointment with her on Friday afternoon, and, as always, that sweet heartbeat, nearly stopped our own.
We’re 18 weeks now, which means I’m almost half-way there, and we’ll soon be finding out if we’re having a little boy or girl. We’ve already chosen names, and we have a family dinner planned on February 1st, where we’ll get to share the news with our parents and siblings. That ultrasound will be our 6th (and hopefully our last). If our sweet baby keeps on growing like he/she is supposed to, the next time we’ll see him/her will be in the delivery room.
I’m hoping that come June, we’ll have plenty of meals and loaves of bread stored in the freezer. I know enough about new motherhood to recognize that my time in the kitchen will be rather limited at first. So I imagine the months leading up to June will be full of culinary experimentation and steady preparation.
I’m also becoming particularly mindful of what I put into my mouth. The first few months of my pregnancy were so difficult (stomach-wise) that I subsisted on a small list of foods that I found bearable (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, frozen chicken parmesean, hard boiled eggs, and smoothies from Wheatsville). THANKFULLY, my good eating habits have returned in the second trimester, along with my appetite. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, organic meats and eggs, and plenty of wild-caught salmon. This whole wheat apple walnut braid is sweetened only by maple syrup and packed full of nuts, fresh fruit, and spices.
While braids look impressive, they’re actually quite easy to make, especially if your dough is cooperative. Remember, I was able to pull this off while the Broncos were losing to the Ravens. My mind and body kept on racing between the kitchen and the television room. I hope that your football team doesn’t have to lose for you to enjoy this as much as we have. It goes perfectly with your morning coffee or tea.
Whole Wheat Apple Walnut Braid
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
2 TBSP melted and cooled butter
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
1 package instant yeast
2-3 granny smith apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 TBSP maple syrup
1. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough (about 8 minutes with a kitchen aid mixer). Allow to rise in a slightly warm place, covered, for 1 hour.
2. Peel and dice apples. In a small bowl, combine apples, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
3. Roll Dough into a 13×9 inch rectangle. Scoop filling into the center of the rectangle, making a long log shape. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut each side of dough up to where the filling begins. You should make a total of 13-15 strips on either side of the filling. Crisscross the strips of dough over each other to make the braided top.
4. Allow to rise for another 30-4o minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle walnuts over the top of your loaf before baking in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Best enjoyed warm.