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SPINACH AND SWISS UMAMI BRAIDS

Ingredients

2 cups water (120 degrees)

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1, ¼-ounce (7-gram) packet Red Star® Quick Rise Yeast

8 cups King Arthur® All-Purpose Flour

1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon salt, divided

2, 10-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed to room temperature

5 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded

1, 8.5-ounce jar julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 leek, chopped white and light green parts (2 cups)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced

½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

Place the water in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Add the honey and stir with a spoon until it is completely dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the olive oil, 4 cups of the flour, and 1 tablespoon of the salt to the bowl.  Mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment until combined.  Add 1 box of the thawed spinach including all of the juices to the bowl and 2 more cups of the flour.  Mix to combine. 

Add 1 cup of the shredded cheese and 1 more cup of flour to the bowl and mix until the dough forms a ball and is mostly pulled away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Flour your countertop with ¼ cup of flour and turn the dough out of the bowl scraping off any bits stuck to the sides and bottom.

Knead the dough, adding as much of the remaining flour as needed, until a smooth ball forms.  The dough will be slightly sticky.  Knead for 8 minutes, dusting with flour if it sticks to the counter, and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise for 1 ½ hours until doubled in bulk.

While your dough rises, make your filling.  Drain and reserve the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat and add the leeks and garlic to the pan.  Cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until mushrooms soften and begin to lightly brown, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the second box of spinach, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to the pan and cook, stirring, until all of the moisture is cooked off. Turn off the heat and stir in the drained sun-dried tomatoes.  Set aside and let the filling cool to room temperature.

Punch your dough down and knead for 2 minutes.  Cut in half and form into 2 balls.* Cover them with a kitchen towel and let proof for 10-15 minutes.  Knead each dough ball for another minute.  Lightly flour your countertop and roll each dough ball into a 12” x 15” rectangle (short side of the rectangles facing you).

Using a paring knife, cut 4” wide x 1” thick strips down both of the long sides of the dough on each rectangle, leaving a long, uncut 4” wide section in the center of the dough.  Place your half of the cooled filling down the uncut 4” center part of the each, leaving about 1” of exposed dough on the top and bottom.  Top the filling on each rectangle with the remaining 4 cups of the shredded cheese (2 cups on each).

Starting at the top, fold the strips diagonally over the filling, alternating from left and right sides, crossing the strips over one another to form a braid-like pattern.  As you fold the strips over the filling, stretch the dough and then press to adhere on the other side of the filling.  Fold the exposed dough at the top and bottom of the filling section in and pinch to adhere to the first and last ‘criss-cross of dough’ to keep any filling from spilling out. 

Transfer the stuffed braids to parchment lined baking sheets (approx. 10” x 18”).  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.  Brush the top of the braids all over with the reserved tomato oil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the dough is browned and cooked through in the center.  Remove from oven and brush again with the oil.  Let sit for 10 minutes to set.

Cut into slices and devour. 

*If you do not want to make both loaves at once, place on piece of dough in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  Let come to room temperature before making your next loaf.

Yields 2 loaves

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