learn how to braid…bread, kinda.

I’ve recently become a fan of pinterest, a horribly, disgustingly, ridiculously addicting website. Just check it out and you’ll hate me instantly. You’re welcome.

Aaand I managed to find yet another place to find inspiration. This time (and not surprisingly) in the form of food.

So then I made this…

…and just like it looks, it was delicious.

I wish I could credit the person that inspired me, but I was new to the site and didn’t think to send it to myself. Actually, what they had was a sweet version, made with pastry dough. But me, being the lover of pretty much all things savory, decided to make it my own, as is usually the case.

Don’t worry friends, I will try the sweet variety as well.

Anyway, if it was the weekend, I would have tried to make the bread myself. But it wasn’t and my new job schedule has me a little out of whack. I was hungry and tired and wanted to make something quick. I had to head to the store anyway to get supplies for our lunches, but in my fridge I knew I had some chicken breast, mushrooms that were desperate to be cooked, sliced cheddar cheese, and broccoli. And at the grocery store, I found it – Pillsbury’s crunchy french bread dough.

So I went home, and turned the oven on to 425 degrees. I also pulled out a baking sheet, threw on a piece of foil to cover it entirely, and sprayed the foil with cooking spray.

Next, I cut the chicken breast into strips, cut the crimini mushrooms into halves, and cut the broccoli to a little larger than the mushroom halves. I threw the chicken in a pan, added some salt and pepper and browned the pieces. I then threw in the mushrooms and broccoli, added some dried sage and a little more salt, and cooked everything for a few minutes. I also added cayenne pepper, but you’ve been here before so you expected that from me. I thoroughly cooked but did not overcook the ingredients because I was about to throw everything into the oven.

While the filling was cooking, it was time to prepare the dough! Now, if you’re like me, you’re a visual person. If you’re a great deal like me, you totally didn’t think to take picture until it was too late.

Please allow me to illustrate, albeit, crudely:

On a large piece of saran wrap that I had covered my counter top with, I unrolled the dough until I had a rectangle. The dotted lines in the diagram are simply where I drew a faint line in the dough to divide the dough in thirds. I did it in even thirds, but in the illustration, the center piece is larger. That’s how I’ll do it from now on.

The solid lines are where I actually cut the dough. You can use a dough scraper thingy or a pizza cutter. Both work great.

This is where I accidentally was a genius. Normally, I just put dough right on top of our granite counter, but for some reason this time I put down saran wrap first. It worked out wonderfully in the end because there was absolutely no way for me to lift the dough up and put it onto the baking sheet once I had made the cuts. I guess I could have rolled it out on top of the foil, but then I would have probably cut the foil when cutting the dough. So I would have to put another layer of foil on the baking sheet so nothing seeped through. And I didn’t want to make cuts on top of the baking sheet, because that would ruin it.

My point is, I brought the baking sheet close, lifted the saran wrap gently from one end, and quickly flipped the whole thing over onto the foil that had been previously laid out on the baking sheet. I gently pulled the saran wrap off the dough and it couldn’t have worked out any better.

Now for the fun part. I took the yummy filling that I had made and placed heapfuls in the center of the dough (between the dotted lines of the diagram). On top of the filling, I added cut up pieces of cheese. Then, I gently lifted “Piece 1” and lay it diagonally over the filling (pointing towards “Piece 4”). Next, I gently lifted “Piece 2” and lay it diagonally over the mixture and Piece 1 (pointing towards “Piece 3”). I did the same with Piece 3 as I did with Piece 1, and the same with Piece 4 as I did with Piece 2, and so on, and so forth.

You may notice from the picture I took of the entire thing, once I got to the bottom pieces, I started laying them pointing upwards. It’s because of several things. First, I had originally divided the dough up into even thirds, so the pieces that I cut on the edges were really long. Second, I more than likely stretched them out a great deal while I was pulling them over the filling. So when I got to the middle pieces, they were really long. Third, the angle that I was laying them down on was probably too steep. So you want it to be at a little bit of an angle, but not a sharp angle. Does that make sense? Or is that brain I see oozing out of your left ear? Sorry about that : (

Anyway, I got the whole thing braided, sprayed the top with cooking spray, then I put it in the oven. I was thinking it would be 20-30 minutes before it was done. I’m so glad I cooked the filling thoroughly though, because it took no more than 10 minutes for the bread portion to get nice and crispy.

Honestly, from cutting up the ingredients for the filling, to preparing and filling the dough and baking it, from start to finish the whole thing took me no more than 45 minutes. And I think that once I get a little more practice, it will go even faster. For a dish this beautiful (and mine was an ugly kind of beautiful), that time was totally worth it.

And don’t forget! This is great for using up random ingredients in your fridge! Just remember, don’t cut things up super small, as the dough does not completely cover the filling and you don’t want the filling to spill out of the openings on the side. OR do cut the ingredients of the filling small, and cover them with a layer of spinach (uncooked – it will cook just fine in the oven) or other “blanket” to keep the innards from spilling out.

Next time, I’m thinking about trying turkey meatballs, carrots, broccoli and cheese, and either pouring marinara sauce over it when it’s fully baked, or just putting a little bit on the side for everyone to dip into. Oh the possibilities are endless! And then to make it sweet, with apple pie filling and a sweet dough?! Come on! This will surely be an easy go-to dish for a lot of different events.

So please make this. Pleeeeease make this. Try it out once for yourself, and you’ll be amazed. Then you can make it for guests and wow them.

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