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!
source: King Arthur Flour, printed with permission
- 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)
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.