This bread was inspired by the marble loaf in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. This recipe can also be made into 3 seperate loaves of bread, 9 mini loaves, or into 12 braided bread sticks.
3 loaf pans, 9 mini loaf pans, or 2-3 baking sheets depending on what type of bread you are making. (lightly greased)
3 large bowls
colander (to drain spinach)
For Each Loaf:
3-3 1/2 cups of flour
1 pkg. yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbl. softened butter (not spreads of whipped butter)
1 egg, beaten (for use during baking)
1 15oz can spinach
1/2 cup milk
1 cup tomato sauce
2 Tbl milk
2 Tbl milk
2/3 cup hot water
Drain spinach throughly. Squeeze dry with paper towel. Finely chop spinach in blender. Scrape spinach down sides of blender and add milk. Blend until pureed. Set aside.
Place 3 bowls on the counter. In each bowl measure out 2 cups flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix well. Make a well in center of each mixture and place butter and 1 egg inside well. In one bowl add spinach mixture, in second bowl add in milk and tomato sauce, in third bowl add in milk and water. Mix all three doughs throughly in their seperate bowls.
For each dough add 1/4 cup flour at a time until dough cleans sides of bowl and can be lifted out and placed on the counter. You can let the other doughs rest in their bowls while you work on one dough at a time. NOTE: The 3 different doughs usually take different amounts of flour before being ready to be turned out to the counter for kneading.
Knead each loaf for approximately 10 minutes, pushing and folding it vigorously. Add sprinkles of flour to your dough if it becomes sticky. To know if your dough has enough flour added, slap the dough with an open hand and leave it there for 10 seconds. If no dough clings to your hand when you take it away you have added enough flour. Kneading is completed when your dough feels smooth and elastic. NOTE: All dough will be sticky when first kneading, be careful not to add too much flour at once or your bread will end up like a rock.
Place dough in greased bowl (I just wash and reuse the bowl I mixed the ingreidents in) and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm place until double, about 45-60 minutes. Dough is done rising when you poke the dough with 2 fingers and the indentations remain.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
For 3 large braided loaves: Cut each different dough into 3 pieces and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece between your hands to make a long rope. Lay three different color ropes side by side. Pinch together one end and start braiding. Pinch together the other end. Place loaf on greased baking sheet.
For 12 mini braided loaves: Cut each different dough into 12 pieces. You can do this by cutting the dough in half, then each piece in half again, and then cut each remaining piece into thirds. Proceed for braiding as indicated above. You should be able to fit at least four or more breadsticks on a single greased baking sheet.
For mini loaves: Cut each different dough into 3 pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle and place into a greased mini loaf pan.
* Be creative. There are many ways to shape and play with this bread. You can also roll each piece of dough out flat and layer them on top of each other. Roll up like a jelly roll and cut into three loaves to bake in a regular loaf pan. *
Cover shaped loaves with greased plastic wrap and set aside to double in size, about 30-50 minutes. If you will only be able to fit one pan in the oven at a time when you are ready to bake, cover remaining dough and place in fridge. As one batch of bread is cooking you can bing one batch out of the fridge to rise.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush bread with beaten egg and bake until golden brown. Approximately 40 minutes for large loaves and 30 minutes for mini loaves. Tap bottom of bread and if it sounds hollow the bread is ready. If it does not sound hollow bake an additional 5 minutes.
Baste hot bread with butter if desired for a softer crust. Best time to eat is straight out of the oven. Enjoy!!