Here’s a way to add a pretty flourish to your table: this delicious Braided Tomato Bread Wreath. Yes, you may have seen a bread like this with eggs, served at Easter time. But this bread is delicious all throughout the year (especially during tomato season) – and there are no shells to peel.
Basically, this bread wreath is a variation of our Herbed Easter Egg Bread. You place the tomatoes on top of the bread the same way you would place the eggs. However, this bread has an extra twist: there are pureed tomatoes in the bread itself as well. It gives the bread a faintly pink hue, and a just-barely-perceptible “tang” of deliciousness.
Do you fear making a yeast bread? You shouldn’t! This bread is incredibly easy and forgiving. Most of the initial mixing is done in a mixer, and you can knead it that way as well if you like. And as far as the braiding and twisting goes, well, you can simply have fun with it.
For the pureed tomatoes in this recipe, we always use tomatoes that are labeled Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese – Nocerino DOP. This is not a brand but a type of tomato grown and picked exclusively for the can.
Farmers cultivate these tomatoes in the 41 towns situated within the volcanic-rich production area of Agro Sarnese-Nocerino near Naples, Italy. Importantly, they are the only cans that can us the DOP label.
These tomatoes are packed salt-free with no preservatives so you can taste the freshness immediately. In fact, most people consider these tomatoes the “crown jewel” of European canned tomatoes.
Braided Tomato Bread Wreath Recipe
Braided Tomato Bread Wreath
A easy, pretty, and delicious round wreath bread studded with bright red tomatoes.
- 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour divided
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 package active dry yeast (equivalent to 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/3 cup butter softened
- 1/2 cup very warm water (130-140 degrees)
- 1/2 cup pureed canned tomatoes
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 1 tsp cold water
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh herbs
- 10-12 cherry tomatoes
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast. Cut the butter into pieces and add it to the dry ingredient mixture. Combine the warm water and pureed tomatoes in a measuring cup - making sure that the water remains warm even with the tomatoes mixed in. (Add water that's a little hotter than you think you will need because the tomatoes might cool it down). Gradually add the warm water/tomato mixture to the dry ingredients and beat for two minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Add three of the eggs plus one egg white (reserve the yolk for later), and 1/2 cup additional flour. Beat at medium speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl (we coat ours with olive oil) and turn the dough so that all sides are greased. Cover, put in a warm place free from drafts, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and bring it back to the floured board. Cut it into three even pieces. Twist and stretch the dough into three ropes of equal width and length, approximately two inches wide by 18 inches long. Holding the ends of the three strands, braid the strands into one long braid (To braid: take the right strand and move it over the middle strand to become the new middle strand. Then take the left strand and move it over the middle strand to become the new middle strand. Repeat until the braid is complete.) Curl the braid into a ring and carefully seal the edges together.
Combine the remaining egg yolk with one teaspoon of water and brush the mixture all over the bread. Place the bread on a greased baking sheet and set in a warm place, free from drafts, to rise again. Let the bread rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.
Finally, set the cherry tomatoes into crevices in the bread, pressing down gently to secure the position. Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
Tomato Bread Wreath Recipe Notes
First, about that hot water that gets mixed in with the yeast… make sure it doesn’t cool off when you mix it with the tomatoes. There are two ways to fix it; either warm up the tomatoes beforehand (or the whole mixture afterwards), or add water that’s a little hotter than you think you need. In the end, you want the tomato/water mixture to be 120-130 degrees F. (49-55 degrees C.). This is the ideal temperature for activating yeast with dry ingredients.
Second, don’t be intimidated by braiding bread! It’s even easier than braiding hair, if you’ve ever done that, because you don’t have to worry about tiny strands.
When you get to the part where you connect both ends to make it into a circle, don’t think too hard about it. Just tuck in the ends that seem loose. By the time the bread rises, it is very forgiving. All of those things that looked like imperfections are now just beautiful curves of bread.
Last but not least, don’t skip the egg yolk gloss on top of the bread. That’s what gives it the distinctive glossy and dark golden brown top. In fact, while we were looking at the pictures we took of this bread, we were thinking that it looks like we over-saturated them. We didn’t. It really is that golden. Enjoy!
P.S. Love the best tomatoes from Italy? Check out our Tomato-Pesto Frittata here.