Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Making homemade bread look "fancy" -- braiding dough


A braided loaf of bread looks really impressive. But it takes less time to execute, than shaped rolls, and only requires rudimentary braiding skill (can you braid hair? then you can braid dough). Because it is easier and faster than shaping rolls, I like to use a loaf of braided bread when I am tasked with bringing rolls to an event or dinner.

I have 2 methods of braiding bread dough. One method uses a refrigerated roll dough. And the other, this double-braid method, uses any yeasted bread dough. You can even buy frozen bread dough for this method of braiding. In any case, it makes the finished bread "fancy" enough for gifting, or for serving at holiday meals.

This is the loaf I made a week ago, using a fruit and nut, yeast bread dough. But you can use plain bread dough, whole wheat, rye or French bread dough for this sort of braid.


With bread dough that is ready for it's final rise, divide into thirds. Use 2/3 of the dough for the bottom braid, and 1/3 of the dough for the top braid. Set the 1/3 portion aside and begin working with the 2/3 portion.


Using your hands, roll the larger portion of dough into a long log (about 15 inches), and flatten slightly.


With a knife, cut the flat log into long thirds. Gently roll these strands, on a floured surface, to round out the cut edges.


Pinch the 3 ends together, gently, and begin braiding, as you would hair.


If your braid is loose at the "beginning" end, flip it upside down, undo that first pinching, and re-braid that end, only. Doing this, should tighten up your final result, into one uniform braid. Place this bottom braid on your buttered, baking sheet.


Now, work your 1/3 portion of dough, the same way as the 2/3 portion: rolling into a log (but this time, make your log about 18 inches long); flatten and cut into 3 strands; braid; check for looseness; pinch together any breaks. My braid, above, had two problems. It was too loose at the "beginning" end, and it had a break. I flipped it over and re-braided/tightened the "beginning" end, and I pinched the break back together.



Place the second braid on top of the first braid, allowing the ends of the top braid to fall over both ends of the bottom braid.


Use the palm of your hand to gently smash down the ends of the top braid, onto the baking sheet.


Tuck these flattened ends under the bottom braid. Doing this is what gives the finished loaf a neatly-braided look, after baking.


Allow to rise until nearly doubled in bulk, and bake.


My other method for braiding dough isn't really a braid, at all. I especially love this other method for a Christmas morning bread. I baked a filled loaf, yesterday afternoon. I'll write up a post for that one, for tomorrow morning. 

I used a standard, refrigerator yeast roll dough, and filled with an almond filling. At other times, I have used nut/cinnamon/sugar filling, fruit/nut fillings, and cream cheese/herbs (for a savory filled bread).

This bread-braiding method comes from my Scandinavian heritage. I've always called it Crèche Bread, as it resembles the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling cloth, in the manger. However, when I went to verify that that is indeed what it is called, I couldn't find it anywhere, online. In any case, check back tomorrow, if you'd like to see a simple, but impressive method for filling and "braiding" bread dough.

Have a great day!





11 comments:

  1. That looks lovely, Lili!

    I have done the simple braid in the past but I will try this double braid sometime. Another one I like to do is make three slits in the top of a loaf before it rises. My dad was awed by that once when he saw it. I haven't baked bread for a while but maybe on this long Christmas weekend I might find some time. The household is very busy right now since everyone is home.

    Have a nice week!

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      I can imagine just how busy your house is this week! And I bet it's a very happy sort of busy.

      The double braid is pretty easy. I like how it makes the ends look so finished, and gives height to a bread that might flatten out.
      You're right, even slits in the top make a bread look more "professional".

      Have a lovely week, Alice!

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  2. Oooh, so pretty. Like Alice, I've only done a simple braid. I would worry about the double layers baking evenly. I made a braided loaf for Thanksgiving and I agree--everyone thought it looked fancy but really, it's not hard at all. My son even took a picture of it! (maybe I don't feed him enough and he's holding on to memories???)

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    1. Hi Kris,
      The layers seem to bake evenly in my oven. I've never thought about that, so it must work okay. One thing that I do, though, when I am using a braided loaf as a gift or for a special meal, is to bake 2 loaves. Then I choose the one that looks the best for guests or gift, and the other for our family for ordinary meals.

      Ha ha! Is your son in that phase with huge growth spurts? It can be hard to cook enough at meals, to meet the hunger of teenage boys.

      Have a great week, Kris!

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    2. Yes, he started his growth spurt last year. At his well-child checkup a week ago, his doctor said he anticipates my son will be somewhere between 6'1" and 6'3" when all is said and done. He was officially taller than me about a year ago. Sigh.

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    3. Talk about growth spurts--can a 20 year old girl have a growth spurt? We picked up oldest daughter at the airport and youngest daughter came along. We were sitting on benches watching my oldest get her luggage and a girl standing next to her started a conversation. I thought it was a girl from her flight and on second glance realized it was my youngest daughter who was almost just as tall as her sister. There they stood having a conversation and I didn't recognize my youngest child! Oops!

      Alice

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    4. Hmm, I thought girls stopped growing around 13 or 14. In the past I've been able to guesstimate my kid's sizes and buy ahead to save money--I know this is currently unrealistic with my son, but I was hoping it would be easier with my daughter. Now your comment is making me question that. :)

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    5. Oh my, Kris! He's going to be tall!

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    6. Alice, I grew 1 inch between 18 and 21. One of my daughters had a similar growth spurt the summer she was 20. I noticed that her jeans were too short by the end of summer.

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  3. Yum how lovely the bread looks. I say go with your gut on what the bread is called.I remember a cookie game with my Danish Grandmother. Called something like pieranear
    but I can not confirm on the internet. Do you make Aebelskivers for for Christmas ? My Danish family does.
    Have a great day.
    Patti

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    1. Hi Patti,
      Thank you. I've never made Aebelskivers. I should see how to make those without a special pan, though, as I bet there is a way to keep them shaped. Most of my attempts at my Scandinavian (Danish and Swedish for me) baking have resulted in huge messes and me a bit on the cranky side. Ha ha! My mom always made it look so easy.

      Have a lovely day, Patti!

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