Today we are going to be making a White 4 Braid Bread from scratch by hand. This means we will be doing all the kneading by hand and not using the stand mixer. I am doing this to give you the experience to get in touch with your bread and show it is a labor of love.
While this recipes does not have eggs in the bread, I am using an egg wash to give a nice golden brown color on the crust and as a glue to hold our toppings. You can replace the egg wash with some cream or milk which will give you a more duller color, but it will be just as tasty.Some of the steps here may seem complicated, especially when you get into braiding the bread. Watch the video several time, it is really quite simple once you realize what you are doing.
You will also notice that I start out mixing a yeast solution and the dry ingredients together is a similar manor as you make pasta. We are just using more flour and more liquid.
Measure out your ingredients. Mix the water yeast and sugar together, stir and set aside to proof 5 to 10 minutes. Mix the salt and flour, place on work surface in a mound and make a center well. Fill the well with the yeast mixture.
Now carefully start adding flour to the yeast mixture, eventually your wall will collapse and the yeast mixture will try and run all over the table, just contain it with some flour and knead it all into a mount. Use the bench/dough scraper to help you out. Make another mount with a well, add more yeast mixture, repeat these steps until all the yeast solution has been incorporated.
Once all the yeast solution has been incorporated, add the butter in 2 stages. It will be a little difficult to knead at first but it will get easier. After the butter has been incorporated continue to knead until the dough become elastic. You may need to add a little flour. Once the dough is elastic, place it in an oil/greased bowl and cover with a clean towel (or plastic wrap) and set aside in a warm draft free place to double in size – about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Now that the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured surface. Cut into four pieces. Knead each piece into a round and set aside covered for 10 minutes to rest.
Roll each round piece into a rope. Lightly flour your work surface. Place the 4 ropes in a cross fashion, at the center point they meet make sure you press down to make marry them together.
Time for the braiding. Take 2 opposite pieces and cross over setting the ends on the opposite side. Now do the other 2 pieces. Keep repeating this kneading until you can do it no more. At this time marry the ends by pressing them together.
Shape your braid. Then place in a greased bread pan. Brush with an egg wash and cover with a damp towel (or oiled plastic wrap) for the dough to double in size, about 30 to 60 minutes. Preheat the over to 350º/177ºC
After the double has doubled in size, brush to the with an egg wash solution and sprinkle desired toppings.
I want to show you my spray bottle filled with water. I use this to mist the over which creates steam while the bread is cooking. I spray towards the sides and bottom of the oven not on the bread. This steam creates a crunchy crust. If you want a softer crust, do not use the sprayer. Place the bread in the oven and bake at 350º/177ºC for 30 to 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom and it has a nice golden color. Once the bread is removed from the oven, take it out of the pan and allow to cool before slicing. Congratulations on making your very own braided bread. Imagine with this technique all the different breads you can not make.
- 1-1/4 Cups Warm Water, 110ºF/43ºC (about 300 mL)
- 1 oz. Active Dry Yeast (28 grams or 4 envelopes or 3 Tablespoons)
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour plus more if needed
- 2 Tablespoons Butter, room temperature
- 1 Large Egg
- 1 Tablespoon Water
- Poppy Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Sea Salt
- Measure out your ingredients.
- Add the warm water to a bowl. Add the active dry yeast and the sugar. Stir to combine. Set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes. This mixture should become creamy and foamy.
- Combine the flour and salt and place in a mount on your work surface. You will then create a well in the middle.
- Fill the well with some of the yeast solution. Now slowly start working in the flour. If you walls break and the yeast solution leaks, just cover it with some flour and keep incorporating. Use a bench/dough scraper as needed to help keep your work surface clean.
- Once the yeast solution has been absorbed into the flour, make another mount and put a well in the center. Fill the well with yeast solution and continue working in flour. Repeat this process until all the yeast solutions has been incorporated.
- Time to add the soft room temperature butter in 2 step. To your dough ball, add half of the soft butter and knead it in. This will be difficult at first since the dough will be very stiff. Once the butter has been worked in, repeat with the remaining butter.
- Continue kneading the dough until it becomes elastic. Add flour if necessary to keep it from sticking. Once the dough becomes elastic, form it into a ball, place it into a greased/oiled bowl and wipe the top on the bottom of the bowl to coat and turn the dough over. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set aside to double in size. This should take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- In the mean time, prepare a bread pan by greasing it. And make the egg wash by mixing the egg and water together in a bowl. Have a pastry brush available for when needed.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it into 4 pieces.
- Knead each piece into a ball and set aside. Cover with a lightly damp cloth for 10 minutes.
- Roll each ball out into a rope. Set the ropes to the size and lightly flour the work surface. Take the rope pieces and form a cross with the ends meeting in the middle. Where the end meet, press the dough together to make sure they will not come apart.
- Time to braid the bread. Take 2 rope ends on opposite sides, and cross over bring the end to the other side of the cross. Repeat with the other two ropes. Continue cross the ropes in a braid fashion until you can no longer braid. At this point, press the ends of the four pieces together to form a solid mass.
- Shape the braid if needed. Congratulations your braid is complete.
- Transfer the braid to a greased bread pan.
- Brush the bread with some egg wash. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and set aside to double in size, about 30 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the over to 350ºF/177ºC.
- Once the bread has doubled in size, brush gently with egg wash. Be careful not to deflate the bread. Sprinkle with topping as desired.
- Place in a 350º/177ºF oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until it sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If you want a crusty crust, spritz some water mist into the over every 10 minute or so to create steam.
- When the bread is baked remove from the over and remove from the pan right away. Cool on a cooling rack. Try not to cut until the bread has cooled.
To use Instant or Rapid Rise Yeast. Replace the active dry yeast with an equivalent measurement of Instant or Rapid Rise Yeast and mix the yeast with the flour. There is no need to proof this yeast, so add the water and sugar as if it was the yeast mixture. You proofing times should also be lower since this yeast works faster. Keep this in mind. Proofing times will be towards the low end..