French Cheese Braid (Natte)

Natte (French Cheese Braid)*

1 braid

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons, if you’re using bulk yeast)
  • ¾ cup very warm water (105–115 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces Swiss or Gruyere cheese, diced (or cheddar, or Jarlsberg, or anything you like!)
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water

Method

  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, butter, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
  2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (Or use stand mixer with dough hook).
  3. Place dough in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until dough doubles (about 1–2 hours). Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
  4. Punch down dough; knead in cheese until well distributed. Divide dough in 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a rope, 15 inches long.
  5. Place ropes on lightly greased cookie sheet and braid them together gently and loosely. Pinch ends to fasten; tuck under securely. Brush lightly with oil. Let rise until double, 40–50 minutes.
  6. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water slightly; brush over braid. Place in oven rack below center of oven. Bake until braid sounds hollow when tapped, 25–30 minutes.

Tip: If braid is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Natte dough, shaped into “ropes” before braiding
Natte, loosely braided and beginning to rise again
Close-up of natte dough, bristling with cheese (in this case, Jarlsberg)
Crusty baked natte “braid,” hot out of the oven!

*This recipe for Natte/French Cheese Bread is from Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook, published in 1980 by General Mills, Inc.

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