Pear and Almond Sweet Bread (Vegan, Refined Sugar Free)

October 11, 2014
This bread is the best thing I've ever baked.  I can't explain how awesome it is. Here's the deal. This got a thumbs up from my dad, who despises all healthy foods. Whaaaat? He then told me I need to make less vegan food and more unhealthy stuff like this bread. Muahaha. Guys, this bread has some white flour in it, but that's okay. It's way healthier than the 35 ingredient white bread you buy from the grocery store, and it's delicious. Pretty, too. This is similar to traditional easter bread, but it's good at any time of the year. Serve it instead of buns at thanksgiving and soak in all the love.

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2 1/4 teaspoons instant or quick rise yeast
1/4 cup warm (not hot!) water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup warm almond milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup shredded pear
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
For topping: almond milk, rolled oats, and sliced almonds

In a large bowl, mix the warm water and the 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for ten minutes.

Once your yeast mixture is good and foamy, add the almond milk, coconut oil, the 1/4 cup maple syrup, rolled oats, cinnamon, all-purpose flour, pear, and slivered almonds. Mix it with a wooden spoon or use a stand mixer if you have one.

Add the whole wheat flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring well in between, until a soft and lumpy dough forms.

If you're using a stand mixer, just let the dough tool do its work for a few minutes and don't worry about taking it out to knead it by hand. You're looking for a soft, smooth dough ball. If you don't have a stand mixer (I don't) take the dough out once all the whole wheat flour is added and place in on a flat surface that's been generously dusted with flour. Knead the shit out of it. I think I kneaded for fifteen minutes before I was happy with it, but I was watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine so it's cool. It should look like this:

Place in a large greased bowl, cover with a tea towel, and stick it in a warm spot. I heat my oven a tiny bit and turn the light on inside. Let it rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Once it's risen, punch it down gently, once, in the middle of the dough. Take it out of the bowl. There are a couple things you can do here. If you feel like braiding bread is too complicated (it's not) you don't have to do it. Just throw the bread on a parchment lined baking sheet and mush it into whatever shape you want.

Braided bread is super simple and people love it. It seems fancy. If you want to braid it, now is the time. Separate the dough into three roughly equal pieces. Attach their tops together at one end of a lined baking sheet by squishing them together and sort of folding that bit under so people don't see it. Then just braid those pieces like you'd braid anything else. Keep it pretty tight, it'll look nicer once it's risen.

Most recipes say to add an egg or milk wash and any toppings after the bread has had it's second rise. I don't do that. I find the dough too delicate after rising and it's too easy to squash. So right after you've braided it, brush some almond milk on top and sprinkle oats and slices almonds over it. This'll probably make a big mess, but it looks SO PRETTY.

Let it rise again for another half hour or so, or until doubled again in size. Heat your oven to 375F and bake for thirty minutes, or until golden. Serve warm, serve cold, toasted, it doesn't matter. Just eat it. Maybe this seems like it takes a lot of work. It's mostly just waiting around for the bread to rise, so you can do other stuff while that's going on. Bread is pretty easy once you wrap your head around it.
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