The braided bread is quite a challenge for me, the messy baker. I’m absolutely no good at tidy shaping. My challahs invariably have one end thicker than the other. Spacing of cookies suffers giant quadruples melded together. And I am a lousy cake decorator.
Let’s face it – I’m not very artistic. I can’t draw to save my life, any pottery-type activities result in shapeless lumps and even my dress sense is wanting at the best of times. As painting goes, I can put makeup on – just about.
The braided loaf can be made savoury, with various fillings and spreads; or sweet, brioche-like two colour plait. It is seriously impressive, especially before baking. The thing is it’s rather intricate to put together.
Making two doughs is a doddle. Even rolling them out into similar sheets is not that bad, provided the dough texture is not too runny. The fun starts when you have rolled them together: the slashing and braiding.
One roll was slashed deeper than the other. When I tried to even them out, I sliced it in two (very much like shortening table legs). Braiding would have been easy if the rolls wanted to shift; they didn’t and tried to come apart when moved. And of course, like with challahs, one end ended up enormous and the other skinny. Plus the loaf turned out far too long for the tin.
I won, in the end. It wasn’t an overwhelming victory, and not very honourable. It didn’t look like what I saw on Instagram (I swear those things are made from Play-Doh) but when baked, it cut into very lovely zebra swirly slices.
Of course, don’t expect any difference in taste – it’s all just for show. Although, as Charles Spence says, a lot of taste is in the eyes of the beholder.