These loaves are both made from the challah (which the Bernard Clayton book tells me is pronounced “hall-ah”) recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, they’re just shaped differently. Braided bread is pretty but not as useful for sandwiches as a plain loaf.
Challah is a traditional Jewish bread made with eggs. It is often served at the Sabbath meal and on holidays. A recipe quite similar to what I used can be found here, however, I don’t vouch for it, since I haven’t made it.
A simple three strand braid is not difficult, but still looks very pretty. I think the seeds on top make it especially fancy (traditional challah uses poppy or sesame seeds). Really, any bread dough can be braided. I just also like the taste of challah.
- Divide your dough into three equal portions after the first rise. Let the pieces rest under a towel for 5-10 minutes. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to work with.
- Form ropes out of the three pieces by rolling between your hands or holding onto each end and swinging them around in the air like a jump rope, or whatever other crazy thing you need to do to get the dough to make a rope. Mine were about 16″ long, I think, but how long they are depends on how much dough you have.
3. Place the three ropes about 1/2 inch apart in the pan you plan to cook them on. Okay, I admit, I put them on the table and took the picture before I realized my mistake. Then I picked them up and put them in the pan.
4. Start braiding from the middle. Cross the left strand over the middle strand. Starting from the middle instead of at one end ensures that each end of the loaf is symmetrical, instead of having one end larger and looser than the other, as will happen if you start at one end and braid straight to the other.
5. Continue braiding. Cross the right strand over the new center strand, and then the left over the new center, and so on and so forth until you run out of dough. Then press the three ends together and tuck them under so that they look nice.
6. Spin your pan around and start braiding to the other end. However, you will be doing it backwards – crossing the center strand over the left, then the center over the right, etc. Press and tuck ends as before.