In the brand spanking new Artisan Breads (part of the CIA's "At Home" series), instructions for braiding bread are given as pinching the ends of the strands together, then doing your over-unders. Virtually every other set of instructions I've read directs to start in the middle, and braid in both directions. I've never understood the purpose of starting in the middle. So, a couple of questions: 1. Does braiding from the middle serve any function, other than being traditional? 2. Do the instructions in Artisan Breads represent a change in direction in the baking fraternity? A related question. The book includes directions for a six-strand braid. In the past, if I wanted something that big, I would do something like a four-strand base with a second three-strand braid on top of it. What do the bread-makers here think of a six-strand version?