I was excited and very nervous at the same time, when I saw that a braided bread was on the agenda for October for Mellow Bakers. I have wanted to try braiding for quite awhile now, but just kept putting it off. So this past week I bought a small pack of Play-doh, as suggested by Hamelman, to try and practice the braiding pattern for the six strand braid from the book Bread. I managed to start the braid looking at the four pictures on page 305 of the book, but I just wasn't seeing the pattern. I am a visual person and I do best if I see someone else actually doing something a couple times and then I try it myself. It was also difficult working with the Play-doh, because even though I tried making the strands thicker, they kept breaking on me as I was braiding.
I had made up the dough for the Berne Brot, (which is a braided Swiss bread), the day before I planned on braiding it. Hamelman had suggested that this dough was one that lended itself well to overnight retarding in the refridgerator. I wasn't really all that interested in attaining the benefits of overnight retarding, which are improved dough texture and keeping quality, as I was in getting my head around that six strand braiding technique. I was almost ready to ask my hubby for help, because he's really good at that sort of thing, seeing patterns and such, but then I thought I'd just see if there was a video on the internet that might help me.
It turned out to be very easy to find the video I was looking for. The first video I opened up seemed perfect for me. It was straight forward and Maya braids the whole challah from start to finish slow enough for me to grasp the pattern after watching it several times. Here's the video in case you've had trouble with a six-strand braid or are thinking about having a crack at it for the first time,
I couldn't bring the computer downstairs, so even though I felt kind of silly doing it, I opened up a small card table next to the computer, brought my rolled out strands, parchment paper and sheet pan upstairs and started the braid with Maya as she did hers in the video. After finishing the braid, I was shocked that it had seemed so easy. I stood back to admire it, and thought surely I must have somehow messed up the pattern somewhere, but I believe I actually nailed it. My next thought was, 'Yes, bring on more strands!' I was pumped and wished I had a bunch more strands waiting there for me to practice on :)
I wasn't sure if the braid should be baked on a stone or not, so I just decided in the end, to bake it on my sheet pan. I covered the braid with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let it proof for an hour and a half after braiding it, and then after applying a generous amount of egg wash and the sesame seeds, I popped it into the oven. Here it is just before it went in,
I usually don't do this, but I was so excited about making my first braid, that I sat on the floor in front of the oven window, with my knees pulled up and my arms wrapped around them, and watched the baking braid almost the entire time. It came out of the oven with a beautiful golden brown color, and it smelled rich and buttery. We had four slices of the loaf for dinner with some Italian Wedding Soup, and I think we were a little bit surprised how wonderful it tasted; fluffy soft, buttery with a smidgen of sweetness.
|Golden slices destined for French Toast|
Most of the rest of the loaf was used in French Toast the next night for dinner. Abby, over at Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!, was nice enough to share her go to recipe for French toast and, even though hubby is not a French Toast person, he said it wasn't bad. I love French Toast so I was really, really happy with dinner and hopefully he will let me make it again since it wasn't similar to his previous encounters with eggy, soggy French Toast!
Now that I've made one braid I'm all ready to try another, maybe even that Winston Knot one, but we'll have to see. Abby did a wonderful job on the Winston Knot braid with her Berne Brot. Check it out here.