Freshly baked bread without a loaf pan? No problem. Bread dough can easily be formed into a variety of shapes, including rolls, wreaths and braids, and baked on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Braiding pieces of bread dough is an easy way to produce a loaflike shape with a special twist. After the braided bread has baked and cooled, slice it just as you would a traditional loaf.
Divide your prepared bread dough – enough for one loaf – into three equal pieces using a sharp knife. Roll each piece of bread dough into a long rope. The three ropes should be uniform in length and thickness.
Lay the three ropes side by side and pinch them together on one end to join them. Being careful not to stretch the ropes more than necessary, braid them by picking up the rope on the left and placing it in between the other two ropes, then picking up the rope on the right and placing it between the other two ropes. Repeat this pattern until the entire loaf has been formed, being careful not to braid it too tightly. Then, pinch the ropes on the other end to join them.
Move your loaf to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Crack the egg into a small bowl, add a splash of water and whisk together using the fork. Then, using the pastry brush, brush the egg mixture over the surface of your braided loaf. Leave the bread dough in a warm place to rise until it has just about doubled in volume.
Bake the bread at the temperature specified on the package or in the recipe. The actual amount of time needed to bake your bread may vary depending on the size of your loaf. You can test the doneness of your bread by lifting it slightly and tapping on the bottom of the loaf. If the bread is fully cooked, it will sound hollow inside.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes; Harold McGee