Braiding Breads

Next week, we'll have some braided bread recipes.  I’m certainly no expert on braiding bread and roll dough, but I’ve tried several techniques to get nice-looking loaves, and I keep on trying to improve.  Braided loaves look great, and once you get the hang of it, aren't that difficult.
There appear to be two common methods shown in cookbooks.
With either method, it helps to have your “ropes” of dough the same.  The first time I make a recipe, I usually weigh the total dough ball, then, if necessary, get out my calculator and divide the amount into the number of portions I need.  If the number is a fraction, I make my portions the smaller whole number.  For example, if the dough ball weighed 54 ½ ounces and I needed 6 portions, each one would be 9 ounces.  I mark this on my recipe and can use it every time after that.
Braiding always moves the outside strip over the middle strip, then the outside strip on the other side over the new middle strip.
1 - The first method of braiding shows laying the strips of dough side by side and then braiding loosely from the center, first one way and then the other to the end.  They then tuck the ends under.  This requires reversing your braiding when you turn the loaf around, as well as making it hard to avoid "bumps" when you turn it.  Mine didn't look as good as their photo!
2 - The second method of braiding lays the strips of dough side by side in the same fashion, but tapers the ends of the strips.  Pinch one end together tightly, and then braid loosely to the other end.  Pinch the second end together, and turn these smaller ends under the loaf and pinch to keep them together.
I can honestly say that Method #2 worked much better for me and gave me better looking loaves. 
If you are to brush your bread with either an egg wash or egg white wash, do it right before you bake it, carefully, so you don’t deflate the loaves.  Try your best to coat the wash down into the braid in the center of the loaf; when the braid rises in the oven, it may not brown as well near the center as the top.
Don't want to wait?   Try these recipes for braided breads.

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