THE PIZZA BRAID
- Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- Servings: 2 loaves
- Preparation Time: 1 hour
- 3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- all of the sponge
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups Spicy Pizza Sauce
- 2 1/4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Assorted veggies and or meats of your choice
In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, eggs, sugar, Parmesan cheese, and 4 1/2 cups of the flour. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the mixture until the dough is rough and shaggy. Switch the paddle for the dough hook and knead the dough at medium speed for about 6 minutes, or until smooth, adding additional flour if needed.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 60 to 90 minutes or until about double in size.
Gently deflate the dough and divide in two. Cover one of the halves with plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the remaining dough into a 10"X15" rectangle (do this over parchment paper or a silpat for easy transfer on to the baking sheet).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Spread 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese down the center third of the dough. Top with 1 cup of the pizza sauce and about a cup of assorted chopped veggies. I used onions, green peppers, olives, and spinach leaves, but you could add pepperoni, or crumbled sausage, as well. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheese.
Cut 1" crosswise strips down the sides of the rectangle. Starting from one end, bring one of the dough strips across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side, crisscrossing the dough strips. Continue down the rest of the braid, alternating strips to form the loaf. Repeat the rolling, filling and braiding with the second braid. Set both braids aside, cover lightly, and allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Brush each loaf gently with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a pinch of salt). Sprinkle with dehydrated onions or poppy seeds, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.