Braided yeast breads are famous treats that are often served in the spring. Especially during the Easter holiday, they are a popular baked good where I come from.
Maybe it’s because their fluffy, light, and soft texture reminds us that the heavy foods and winter dishes will soon be a thing of the past!
On its own or combined with nuts or fruits – such as almonds, cranberries, or rhubarb – braided breads are a true delight, and can be catered to everyone’s different tastes by featuring a variety of versatile ingredients.
That’s why it was so hard for me to decide which of my braided yeast bread recipes I would like to share with you next. Many of my favorite choices are utterly – but equally – delicious!
Finally, I decided to go for the combination of chocolate and banana. To me, that’s one fabulous mix that cannot fail.
Bringing both together into a wonderfully shaped woven braid of dough seems like an absolutely amazing idea. Just the smell of the rising dough in the oven will make your mouth water – not to mention the aromas of baked banana and chocolate, tantalizing your taste buds.
With some butter or jam on top, this is everything you could possibly wish for, whether for breakfast or as a sweet treat (one that I’m sure the kids will love, too).
Or, you can easily turn it into a nice afternoon snack, with a dollop of whipped cream on the side!
A Note on Baking with Yeast:
Please don’t be at all afraid of using yeast in this recipe. With the instructions at hand, there is nothing to worry about, even though this is a sensitive type of dough. You can do it!
Just be sure not to heat up the ingredients too much. Otherwise, this will affect the yeast’s action in a negative way, and could prevent the loaf from rising.
Check out Foodal’s Complete Guide to Using Yeast for more information.
Adding banana gives the bread a fantastic, slightly sweet flavor, while keeping the braid soft and moist.
As for the chocolate – there’s no question that adding it to baked goods can never be wrong!
Here’s a great idea: make two loaves with this recipe – one for yourself, and an extra one to give away.
To do this, instead of forming three very long snakes of dough, you’ll have six shorter lengths of rolled dough instead that will be easier to manage.
Plus, you won’t have to worry as much about eating up your bread quickly while it’s fresh, if you share!
Also, each smaller loaf will be ready in just 20-25 minutes – so you don’t have to wait as long to be able to eat these up!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mix yeast and sugar
Place your sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Be sure to combine the fresh yeast thoroughly with the sugar, and break up any chunks.
You can use a simple stainless steel spoon to help break up these chunks as you stir, or elect the help of a wooden spoon, perhaps even a mortar and pestle.Set this aside.
Step 2 – Melt butter and mix with milk
In a small saucepan, you’ll want to get to melting your butter before mixing it in with the other ingredients. Of course, remember to melt your butter on low to avoid burning!
Once it’s melted, add your measured milk and stir it in quick, and then remove this mixture from the heat immediately.
Step 3 – Combine the mixtures made in the first two steps
Next, you’ll want to add the melted butter and milk to the yeast and sugar you combined earlier. Do this right away, while the ;butter mixture is still warm (but not hot!) – warmth will help to activate the yeast, but too much heat will kill it.
With a spoon or other stirring utensil of your choice, mix these ingredients together until completely smooth.
Step 4 – Combine flour with salt
Since there’s a bit more flour to this part of the recipe than other ingredients, make sure you find yourself a larger bowl. Put your flour in, measure your salt, and stir them together. Set aside.
Step 5 – Peel and mash banana
Here’s the fun part! Peel your chosen banana, and mash it in a small bowl.
You can use a mixer for this part, or do it the old fashioned way: with a fork or other utensil, like a potato masher. You’ll also want to throw one egg into this mix at this point, which will make the mashing process a bit easier, too. I like to lightly whisk the egg in another small bowl before combining it with the banana.
Once the egg and banana are smoothly combined, mix this gradually into the flour and salt blend that you put together in the previous step.
Step 6 – Combine both mixtures
Now, everything comes together. Mix the yeast, milk, sugar, and butter combo from the earlier steps with the banana, flour, and other ingredients that have just been newly combined, until you have a smooth dough.
If you have a standing mixer, now’s the time to use it! A dough attachment will be your best help.
However, if you like to roll up your sleeves and knead your own dough by hand, you can do that too.
Step 7 – Form the dough into a ball
Once your dough is combined, well-formed and well-textured, form it into a nicely rounded ball.
You’ll also want to give your dough ball some time to rise. Place a clean kitchen towel over your dough, and put it in a warmer than usual spot to rise, on a clean surface. Placing it in the oven with the light on is usually a good spot where nothing will disturb it.
Leave your dough to rise for about 45 minutes, or until it looks like the ball has almost doubled in size.
Step 8 – Add chocolate chips
Next, it’s time to add your delicious chocolate chips! Before you do, measure 1 tablespoon of your total amount of chips, and set them aside for a later step.
You’ll knead the morsels right into the dough by hand. After that, divide the ball of dough into 3 smaller balls of equal size (or 6, if you’re making two smaller loaves).
After dividing your dough – or in the meantime – prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper to prevent the bread from sticking.
Step 9 – Braid your dough
Now, it’s time to flour up your clean countertop, or a large cutting board that’s ideal for preparing dough.
You’ll then take the three rounds of dough and roll them out into elongated sections in the flour, about 20 inches each (shorter if you’re making two loaves).
Next: you’ll braid them together!
Step 10 – Let your braid rise
Once you’ve braided up a whole loaf, place the braid upon your parchment-covered baking sheet.
You may have to place it on the sheet diagonally (similar to what’s shown in the picture below) to make your braid fit.
Set it aside in a warm place, and let it rise a little more for about 25 minutes.
Step 11 – Preheat oven
While waiting a little bit for the yeast to rise one last time, this is a great time to preheat the oven (if your bread is not rising in the oven, that is)!
Set the temperature to 350°F.
Step 12 – Coat your bread
Time for the second egg, your last ingredient. You will crack and whisk this together in a small bowl until smooth and combined.
Using a food-grade brush (like in the picture below), you’ll apply the egg wash as a coating to your bread, so it gets that nice crisp and golden outer texture!
After brushing on the egg, take that last tablespoon of chocolate chips and sprinkle them atop your braid.
The egg coating should also help these chocolate morsels to stick to the bread. If they don’t, take any that fall off and stick them gently into the dough, towards the center or in a fold, so they won’t fall off onto the tray and burn.
Step 13 – Bake it
If your oven is preheated and ready to go, it’s time to stick your braided bread dough in!
Bake for about 25-30 minutes, using the outside texture and color as a good indicator – when ready, the outside should be golden brown and firm.
Think your bread is browning too fast? No worries – take a sheet or two of aluminum foil and cover your bread with it for the last 10-15 minutes of baking, to prevent burning or developing a tough crust.
Step 14 – Let it cool
Once it’s all browned up and done, remove your braid from the oven and let it cool down, right on the baking sheet that you baked it on.
About 30-45 minutes of cooling time is optimal if you want that desired fluffy loaf that won’t fall apart when you eat it!
If you need to, you can remove your bread to a wire cooling rack – though you may risk damaging that beautiful loaf in transit, or watching your bread fall apart if you move it too soon while it’s still too hot.
Once your bread is cooled, you can dust it with a bit of powdered sugar (or not) and slice to desired thickness with a trusty bread knife. It’s so delicious!
I hope you enjoy this recipe! I know I sure have (many times) and you will, too.
Looking for another tasty yeast bread recipe to impress your guests? Check out this Twisted Cinnamon & Cardamom Loaf.
What are your experiences with braided breads? Ever tried the irresistible combination of chocolate and banana, or do you have your own combos that are simply to die for? What do you like to serve yours with?
We’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment in the section below. I hope you have many happy baking times ahead!
Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.