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Braided Bread

Braided Bread

Download the recipe PDF. View the YouTube video. View the Printer Friendly version.

Makes 1 two-pound loaf.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from my Basic White Bread.

Here’s the thing with braided bread: Very few foods impress a crowd like a beautiful loaf of homemade bread. It isn’t difficult to make, but it engenders more praise than you might get for slaving over a hot stove all day to make a less theatrical dish. I like to bake breads in the winter when the mobile home is cold. If I really want to impress my dinner guests I make a large loaf of braided bread.

Ingredients:

For the Egg-Yolk Wash (prepare a day in advance):
1 fresh egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water or milk
For the Bread:
1 cup (240ml) water
1½ cups (12 ounces/350ml) lager beer (or water)
2 pounds (900g) (7 cups sifted or 6 cups scooped) bread flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional)
1 tablespoon active dry or instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 egg yolks
5 to 8 tablespoons flour, depending on the size of the yolks

Directions:

Mix the egg-yolk wash in advance by blending the yolk, salt, and water in a small bowl with a wire whisk or fork. Doing this a day (or at least a few hours) in advance gives the salt time to break down the yolk structure.

Combine the water and beer (or use 2½ cups (590ml) water) in a small saucepan and heat to between 110°F (43°C) and 115°F (46°C). Combine half the flour with the (vital wheat gluten, optional), yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Pour the warm liquid into the flour mixture and combine, using a rubber spatula. Scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour. Allow to rest 5 minutes to activate the yeast. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, and the salt, combining each time. Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes (or knead 10 minutes in a stand mixer). The mixture should be a little sticky. Use a knife to cut a deep slit in the dough. Drop one yolk into the slit and seal the dough over it. Knead to blend, adding a tablespoon of flour to the mix if too wet. The dough will separate because of the yolk, but continue kneading and it will eventually come together again. Repeat until all the yolks are incorporated. Add more flour as needed, but try not to exceed 10 tablespoons. Too much flour will make the bread dense.

Place the dough in a buttered bowl. Roll it around to cover all the surface with butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 40 to 50 minutes, longer if your kitchen is cool.

Cut the dough into five equal pieces and roll into long strands, about 30 inches (76cm) in length. Shape the loaf by braiding or twisting the strands (see illustrations below). Place on a greased or lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise 30 to 40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the center of the oven. Carefully brush the surface of the loaf with the egg-yolk wash. Bake the bread 35 to 45 minutes until a rich golden brown. It should reach an internal temperature between 195 and 205°F (91 to 96°C). Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

Let the bread cool. There are starches in hot bread that need to gelatinize in the cooling process.

Braiding Five Bread Dough Strands:

Braided bread illustration 1

Step 1: Start by laying the five strands on a work surface and pinch together at one end. Arrange three strands on one side to the right. The outer third strand is the one to be braided.

Braided bread illustration 2

Step 2: Lay the outer third strand on top of the other two, arranging it with the two strands on the left.

Braided bread illustration 3

Step 3. Now, with three strands on the left, the outer third strand is the one to be braided next.

Now, with three strands on the left, the outer third strand is the one to be braided next4

Step 4. Lay the outer third strand on top of the other two, arranging it with the two strands on the right. Then the outer third strand on the right will be the next to be braided.

Repeat steps 1 through 4 until all the strands are braided. Try to braid them tightly. When all the strands are braided, pinch them together at the end. Your loaf should look like this:

Braided Bread dough

You can experiment with different numbers of strands and different braiding patterns. See the PDF for examples.