Seasonal special: Braided Pear Bread!

So after the success of the walnut cinnamon squirrel bread, I wasn’t displeased this morning to have a little dab of leftover 10-grain cereal, plus about half a bowl of mushy breakfast cereal. I used it and some pears that needed to get used to make this thing of beauty:Braided Pear Bread

Here’s the rest:

First the sponge: that dab of 10-grain cereal, plus half a bowl of mushy breakfast cereal–you could leave these out altogether, and it would be fine, or you could throw in some oatmeal or other grain. Add 2 c. really warm water, 1 TBSP brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt, a splash of oil (I used walnut oil, but canola or extra-light olive would work), 2 c. flour, and 2 TBSP yeast. Mix thoroughly, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Start the mixer at medium speed and begin adding flour by the 1/2 c., until the flour is mixed in and the dough is smooth and not moist. (It will be 3-4 cups of flour, probably.) Turn off the mixer and let dough rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until dough is approximately double.

Remove from the bowl to a greased/sprayed cookie sheet. Spread the dough out in a large rectangle. Peel, core, and slice 2 ripe pears, and lay the slices down the middle of the rectangle. Using a pizza cutter wheel, cut slices on either side of the row of pears, cutting not quite 1/3 of the way into the side. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over the dough and pears.

Braid: Start at one end of the rectangle. Fold the end of the dough in, then take the first strip of dough from one side and fold it over and slightly down. Take the first strip from the other side and lay it over in a criss-cross. Continue down the rectangle, crossing the strips over each other in alternation. Before folding over the last strips on each side, fold up the end of the dough, then cross the last strips over and pinch to seal. Braid in progressUncooked braid

Brush all over the top with melted butter, sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar, and allow to rise for 15-20 minutes. (Confession: I didn’t wait for it to rise–I put it straight into the oven, but I think it would be slightly fluffier if I’d done the 2nd rising.)

Put in a 375ºF oven for 30 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned. It will be about 180ºF on a food thermometer when it is done–this is how I knew it was done.

You can see by the first picture that the pears get all gooey and squashy, and the top of the bread is crusty and sugary. This would make a fabulous breakfast bread for guests.