Watermelons are in season and they can be found everywhere. . . . Thinking about it brings me back to previous years, when we had a melon garden. I remember thumping watermelons and tugging cantaloupes to see if they were ready. I remember watching and waiting, coming back time and time again, seeing the melons grow and change color, and finally, bringing the bulging treasures home. But as the summer went on, I also recall reaching a point where we just had melons up to our ears and did not want to eat any more for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Especially was this the case with the watermelons, as we found the cantaloupes more satisfying for a meal. So it was time to try something new and exciting – and that is when I made watermelon bread the first time, dubbing it watermelon braid after its shape.
The fruit content allows the otherwise plain wheat loaf to retain extra moisture, thus preventing the bread from becoming dry and uninteresting as quickly as it normally would. So even though this melon braid is best the same day it is baked, it can also be eaten the next day, while the third day finds it still moist but somewhat crumbly.
The watermelon adds a delicate pinkish-orange color and subtle sweetness to the bread, making it well suited for special occasions as well as a family table surprise. The braided shape makes it look extra spectacular, but the dough can also be made into a plain loaf, which will in no way diminish the flavor of the bread. If a bread pan is not available, the dough can be placed on a floured baking sheet, in which case the loaf will just become a little flatter. The watermelon adds natural sweetness to the bread, but since the yeast eats sugar as food, it is necessary to add some extra sweetener, together with a little oil for extra soft moistness -- soft, watermelony moistness.
Now, the thing is that you might also get tired of watermelon bread, so what do you do? You freeze the watermelon, either as chunks or puree! Now you can use it whenever you feel like it. Cool, right?
As a final note, I found that this bread can also be made with a puree of papaya, but since it is watermelon season right now, let's just stick to the watermelon.
So, to the step-by-step instructions. . . . because I know you want to try this right now.
Puree the watermelon in a blender or food processor. You need 1 1/2 c. puree, so about 3 c. diced watermelon will do.
Transfer the watermelon puree to a pot, add the salt, sugar, and oil, and heat the mixture until it is warm (so the yeast can work). Mix the flour and dry yeast (so the yeast will be evenly distributed) and add it to the puree. Start stirring with a spoon, and then knead the dough by hand until it is smooth and pliable, 2 to 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into three equal parts, and roll each into a thick rope about 1 1/2 ft. (45 cm.) long. Group the one end of the ropes together and braid the dough. Finish by tucking under the ends and placing the braid in a floured bread pan or on a floured baking sheet (you can also use parchment paper on the baking sheet). Flour the pan/baking sheet by rubbing it with oil and then dusting it with flour.
Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size and then bake it! And at this point, you MUST wait the 45 minutes of baking time before you dig in, even though I know the smell of baking bread will make your mouth water. But you will not like it unbaked, so do wait, ok?
But now its ready, so lets dig in – Melon Braid, yum!
Yields: 1 loaf
1 1/2 c. (3 1/2 dl.) watermelon puree* (about 3 c./7 dl. melon chunks), lukewarm
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. oil
4 c. (9 1/2 dl.) wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tsp. dry yeast
1. Mix puree, salt, sugar, and oil. Make sure mixture is lukewarm.
2. Mix flour and yeast, and add to puree. Stir and then knead until smooth and pliable.
3. Make three long, thin stems, seal them at one end, and braid them together. Place braid in floured 9 x 5 in. (23 x 13 cm.) bread pan.
4. Let rise until doubled in size.
5. Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 40 to 45 min.
* Puree in food processor or blender. May also use papaya puree.
Scripture of the Day
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him."