This recipe is based on the excellent work by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois of Artisan Bread in Five fame. It has been modified somewhat for an easily braided loaf.
I have been baking bread for years. I don't have room in my kitchen for a large mixer, so would spend a good 20 to 30 minutes kneading by hand for a well developed gluten in my dough. Jeff and Zoe's innovation of making a very quick very wet dough and letting it rise for hours is the most exciting thing to happen to bread making since dry yeast!
This recipe makes 3 large braided loaves. In principle you can bake part of it and refrigerate the rest to bake later, but note that raw eggs make this more of a health risk than a simple basic recipe (watch the videos on the Artisan Bread in Five site).
I started out making this recipe with 100% unbleached white, then moved to 25% whole wheat, and then to 50% white, 25% whole wheat and 25% whole spelt. I will give the proportions for each of these options.
Update: I have gradually weaned my children off of white flour, and am now using a 50:50 whole wheat:spelt mixture. If your whole wheat flour is very dark and heavy, you may want to adulterate slightly with regular unbleached.
* Digital Kitchen Scale (makes life easy).
* Measuring cups (at least one of 2C / 500ml size).
* Measuring spoons.
* Plastic dough scraper / rubber spatula.
* Large bowl - at least 4.3 Liters - with cover (cover doesn't need to seal - use a large plate or a plastic bag if necessary).
* small jar with cover to keep the egg for basting if you want.
* pastry brush
* Baking sheet, Baking paper
1 KG flour: either all white unbleached, or 750gr white and 250gr whole wheat, or 500gr white, 250gr whole wheat and 250gr whole spelt, or 500gr whole wheat and 500gr spelt.
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon instant dried yeast (the kind with really small granules; you don't need to dissolve it first, just mix it in with the flour before adding the liquids).
2 or 3 eggs or egg replacer such as ground flaxseed
6 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 C olive oil
Optional: seeds to sprinkle on top of the loaves - whatever you fancy. I like poppy and nigella, sesame is nice too.