If you’ve made your own bread, you’ll know the feeling of pure satisfaction in dipping your hands into warm dough that has just been through its first rise.  Soft, warm dough that almost melts between your fingers…dough that feels so delicate yet that’s sturdy enough to withstand gently pushing out the air and shaping.  Most of the time, white bread dough is shaped into a log, and for me, always with a bit of trepidation that all of the rolling and fussing will impede the proof in the bread pan.

This time however, the experts at King Arthur Flour challenged me to a new bread-baking level…a level I had avoided for so long with the fear that I’d totally screw it up.  And frankly, I almost did because I was so caught up with taking notes and photos that I didn’t fully absorb the instructions that I was actually taking notes about and photographing.  Go figure.

But anyway, we baked a traditional loaf and a braided loaf from the same batch of dough (totally made by hand, I might add – no stand mixer!) and I am still tickled pink with how my braid turned out.  And it was so much easier to do than I thought it would be!  Like any loaf of white bread, the braided loaf will make great sandwiches since the bread recipe itself is such a fantastic one.  I froze both loaves when I got home and have been enjoying a piece of the traditionally-shaped loaf in the mornings for breakfast with some butter and either rhubarb strawberry or peach vanilla bean jam.  Homemade bread + homemade jam = perfectly harmonious breakfast.  I plan to use the braided loaf described below for something special that I’ll share with you guys soon!

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Braided White Sandwich Bread
source: King Arthur Flour, printed with permission
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This is a hand-made sandwich bread recipe – no stand mixer is required!  The recipe yields 2 loaves of bread, either of which can be made into a traditional loaf or into a braided loaf as detailed here with instructions and photos.
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Ingredients:
  • 5 to 6 cups (20 to 24 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1 package)
  • 1/4 cup dry milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 2 cups warm water (90-100 degrees F)

Instructions:

1.   Measure 3 cups (12 3/4 oz) flour into a medium bowl and add in the dry milk, yeast, sugar, and salt; whisk the ingredients lightly to combine.  With a wooden spoon or dough scraper, mix the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes mostly absorbed by the flour.  Slowly pour the water in the flour-butter mixture and mix it in until well-blended.  Gradually add in enough flour, mixing between additions, until the dough forms a shaggy mass – you’ll be able to see this come together after a few minutes of mixing.  I needed the full 6 cups of flour but the amount you’ll need will depend on how dry or humid your kitchen is; humidity will require closer to the full amount of flour.
2.   Turn the shaggy mass out onto a floured work surface and begin to knead the dough with your hands, rolling the top of the dough towards you and pushing it into itself away from you with the fingers and upper palms of your hands.  After each push, rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the motions for about 8-10 minutes, adding more flour to the work surface if the dough becomes too sticky to work with.  The dough should become soft and elastic – it should just bounce back to you when you lightly press it with your lightly-floured finger.
3.   Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4.   After the dough doubles, you’ll de gas it (gently push the air out), divide it into two equal parts and set one of them aside under a piece of plastic wrap.  Divide the other part into three equal pieces.  Roll each piece out into approximately 18-inch long ropes (see above).

5.   Arrange two of the ropes in an “X” shape with the third rope straight down the center between them.

6.   Loosely braid the ropes starting from the center and working down towards you, leaving the ends out for the time being.  Flip the braid/ropes over so that the flat bottom of the braid is now the top and the loose ropes are facing you.  Braid the ropes as you had the first set and tuck both of the ends underneath.

7.   Move the braid to one of two parchment-lined baking sheets, cover it with plastic wrap, and repeat with the reserved piece of dough.  Allow each of the braided dough loaves to rise to nearly double in size, about 30 minutes.  Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

8.   Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crusts are golden brown and the interior temperature of each loaf reaches 190 degrees F.  Allow the loaves to cool on wire racks until they are completely cooled.

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  • June 19, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    This sounds absolutely fabulous! Yum!

  • June 19, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    Your braid looks fantastic! And thanks for all those pictures and details; I missed the braiding instruction but am looking forward to trying that new technique! And your peach vanilla bean jam… YUM!

  • June 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    beautiful bread! you do a great job explaining the technique, can’t wait to try this!!

  • June 19, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Can’t wait to try this. I have been baking bread from the Artisian Bread book in 5 min a day…I am so happy it is turning out! It will be 97 degrees here the remainder of the week, so no oven..but am saving this to make when it cools down..Thanks for sharing your know how..

  • June 19, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Can I take credit for how good this looks since I cooked beside you that day 🙂

    • June 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      Regan: Yes! Was thinking about you while writing about the shaggy mass…which probably sounds weird to anyone not sitting next to you while you experiences your first shaggy mass. 😛

  • June 20, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    This looks delicious. Making your own bread is so satisfying!

    Thanks for posting!

  • tanya1234
    August 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    gotta try

    thankx

  • CJennings
    November 20, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    I am new to breadmaking, with using instant yeast, there is still a double rise? Thanks! Looks delicious I can’t wait to make this for my family!

    • taraliptak
      November 21, 2013 at 7:16 PM

      Yes, there are two rises. The first is the dough ball in a bowl and the second is after you shape the dough and snuggle it in the loaf pan. This is a great recipe to test our your bread skills and a few have commented about being bread/yeast novices who had great success with this bread. Let me know how it turns out for you! I love hearing success stories!

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