Braiding Bread

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by kyheirloomer, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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?
     
  2. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Yes. The more you work the snakes (aka strands), the more they thin and stretch. Starting from the center keeps the middle of the loaf thicker, while the loaf gets increasingly slender as you approach the ends. In other words, what you wanted to begin with.

    Not in the fraternity, don't know the secret handshake. However, in a word, no. Most likely, it's the way whomever wrote that section of the book does it. I'm not sure that everyway to braid a loaf is still currently used, but if pressed -- say yes.

    There's one (among many) traditional challah loaves that uses 5 strands to make a braided circle, ending with one end on top, pressed into the shape of a lucky hamesh (aka hand of Miriam). IIRC, I posted a recipe and instructions in Chef Talk awhile ago (or may just have distributed it by pdf, don't remember for sure). That's not much different than six, and I suppose six has similar virtues (not counting the hand), yielding thick braids on the bottom and thinner on top after proofing -- excellent for largish, circular loaves.

    BDL
     
  3. momsdacook

    momsdacook

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    I am by no means an expert baker. However, I have been making challah (braided egg bread) for about 40 years. I found when I used to braid from one end to the other, that the first part of the bread would look different from the last part. Usually the braid was tighter nearer the end. Since I've started braiding from the middle I found the bread looked more uniform.

    I recently made a six braid challah and it was beautiful. I have always made the three braid with a narrow three braid on top for special occasions but will now be making the 6 braid.

    Sheila
     
  4. kcz

    kcz

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    To digress, KYH, what did you think of the book overall? I have the Baking at Home book, which I like, and the Hors D'Oeuvre book, not so much.

    Would you recommend the Artisan Bread book over P. Reinhart's or some of the others out there? (Am I asking you to preempt your own review?)
     
  5. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Yes. The more you work the snakes (aka strands), the more they thin and stretch. Starting from the center keeps the middle of the loaf thicker, while the loaf gets increasingly slender as you approach the ends. In other words, what you wanted to begin with.

    Sounds reasonable, BDL. Because I always braid from the middle (cuz that's what the authorities said to do, donchasee) I never noticed the uneveness of working just from one end.

    I do think, though, standing on a solid base of ignorance, that six strands would be kind of awkward to work with. I'll have to try it and find out first hand.

    To digress, KYH, what did you think of the book overall? I have the Baking at Home book, which I like, and the Hors D'Oeuvre book, not so much.

    No opinion yet, KCZ. I just got the book this afternoon. Was leafing through it, and just happened to notice the braiding how-to in the back, and wondered about it.

    My own inclination, with a good bread book, is to recommend it as an in addition to, rather than a replacement of, Reinhart. It's pretty hard to top Bread Baker's Apprentice.

    But the fact is, too, that since getting into serious breab making I've yet to read a baking book from which I didn't learn something. The question is, is there enough something to justify the purchase price. At 35 bucks a pop---the average sticker price on cookbooks nowadays---we all have to pick and choose; and use the library a lot.

    What, about the Hors D'Oeuvre book didn't you care for?
     
  6. kcz

    kcz

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    I didn't like a lot of things about the Hors D'Oeuvre book....recipe selection (a dozen recipes for tea sandwiches?), fussiness (see Roasted Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese), amount of space devoted to desserts, things with ingredients not to be found in my neck of the woods (Smoked Duck Mousse with Raspberries). I think the book missed its mark as an "At Home" edition.

    The things I've ventured to make, like the crab cakes, were not terribly exciting. Overall, I think the book was a lot of fluff and not much substance. Those tea sandwich recipes could almost have been one recipe with variations instead of a whole chapter. This issue returns to your point about spending money on cookbooks. If I had the opportunity to see this book in person before ordering it from Amazon, I never would have purchased it ($20). Much better books out there on this area of cooking.