Warning: braiding bread is addictive!
Every month, the Mellow Bakers nominate three recipes from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread for a group bake-off. September included the recipe for Soft Butter Rolls, which appealed to me in its simplicity, but not in its form.
I decided to try making the dough into a braided loaf, and was absolutely thrilled with the results! The bread is quite reminiscent of brioche (albeit a little denser), which is surprising given the relatively small amount of egg and butter in the dough. It worked beautifully into logs for plaiting, and held its shape well on baking.
I’ve made the recipe three times now, each with a slightly different mix of flour. The lighter loaf above was made with pizza flour, but the darker four-strand braid below was made with half bakers flour and half plain (AP) flour. I think both options give the bread a more tender crumb than straight bakers flour.
It’s quite hard to explain how to braid, and difficult to take photos as I didn’t have a free hand, but I found this wonderful YouTube clip for the six braid which you might find useful. If you have Hamelman’s book, I used the six braid (method two) on page 304 for the loaf above, and the four braid on page 300 for the two smaller ones below.
(adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Soft Butter Rolls)
- 500g (4 cups) pizza flour or 50% bakers flour and 50% plain (AP) flour
- 230g (1 cup) water
- 1 egg
- 40g (3 tablespoons) butter
- 30g (2 tablespoons) sugar
- 25g (3 tablespoons) powdered milk
- 11g (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
- 4g (1 teaspoon) instant dried yeast
- melted butter, for brushing
Note: I used the metric amounts (converted from the imperial provided in the book); the cup and spoon measures are as listed in the original recipe.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour(s), sugar, milk powder, salt and yeast. Cut the butter into small pieces, and rub it into the dry ingredients until crumbly.
2. Add the water and egg, and mix with your clean hand, squelching the dough together to make sure it’s well combined. Scrape off your hand, cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
3. Spray a clean bench with oil, the turn the dough out and knead it briefly until it develops a silky elasticity. Spray the scraped out mixing bowl with oil, then return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film and allow to prove for about an hour and a half. The dough won’t rise much, but it will soften in that time.
4. Turn the dough out and divide it into six equal pieces for the six-braid loaf, or eight pieces for two four-braid loaves. Roll each piece into a long log, and then braid accordingly. Lay the loaves onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Spray a piece of clingfilm with oil, then fit it snugly over the top of each loaf to keep out draughts. Allow to rise for a further 30 minutes to one hour. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) with fan.
5. Remove the clingfilm, brush the loaf with melted butter and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the baking time. When the loaf is cooked through, remove from the oven and brush again with melted butter while it’s still hot. Allow to cool on a wire rack before photographing and scoffing!
The dough recipe is sufficient for one large six-braid loaf or two smaller four-braid ones. The latter are pictured below, and were made with a mix of plain (AP) and bakers flour. As these were smaller, they baked a little browner, but the bread was still tender and delicious. We’ve just eaten the last of the loaf sliced up and cooked as French toast!
Edit: Serendipitously, Brydie has just posted about plaited loaves as well. Maybe it’s the weekend for braiding bread! If anyone else makes a loaf, let me know, and I’ll add the link here…