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Braided Bread with Dinner Rolls

When I'm having a large group of people over I often serve bread either as a braided loaf or dinner rolls. Braided loaves makes it easy to pass around and everyone just tears off whatever portion they want. A loaf of rolls gives the same advantages and in a more uniform package.

Here's how I do each.

Recipe: Herb Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1½ cups milk
2 tablespoons dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup shortening
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon ground sage
3 eggs slightly beaten, reserve 1 tablespoon
7½ cups flour (approx.)

• Scald milk. Stir in the sugar, salt, celery seeds, and sage; allow to cool.

• Dissolve the yeast in the ½ cup warm water.

• Combine the cooled milk mixture, the dissolved yeast, shortening, and eggs with 3 cups of the flour. Beat by hand or with mixer until smooth.

• Mix in remaining flour, a few cups at a time, adding more if necessary to form a semi-soft dough.

• Knead 8-10 minutes.

• Allow to rise 1-1½ hours. Punch dough down and allow to rise 45 minutes more.

• Divide dough in half if making braids, and thirds if making loaf breads. Let rest for 15 minutes.

• For loaves, shape and place into 3 greased bread pans. Let rise until doubled. Place in preheated oven at 400° and bake for 30-35 minutes.

• For braided bread, braid and place on greased cookie sheets and allow to rise until doubled.

• Mix 1 tablespoon of water with the reserved egg and brush onto braids before baking. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.

• Bake in preheated oven at 400° for 25-30 minutes.

• Cool on racks.

Divide your dough into 2 equal portions.
Set one aside.

With the first lump of dough I'm making dinner rolls.
Roll the dough out into a log to more easily divide the dough.

Divide into 3 mini-logs.

Divide your min-logs into 3 parts.

Cut each part into thirds once again.

Shape into balls and place in pan.
Set aside to rise.

To make the braid work the dough into a log once again.

Divide it into 3 parts.

Round them up and roll each one into an 18" rope.

Here's one rope done.

Three ropes and you're ready to braid.

First, pinch 2 ropes together at one end.

Next, take the third rope and lay it between your first 2 ropes, overlapping the pinched end.

Pinch into the bottom to complete a nicely shaped end.

Now separate your ropes to make handling them easier.

Take the rope on your right and cross it over the center rope.
This rope now becomes the new center rope.

Next, take the left rope and cross it over the center rope.

Keeping the braid loose I repeat the steps:
Right rope over center rope,
left rope over center rope,
right rope over center rope...

until only an inch or so remains.

Now stretch the bottom rope over the others and pinch underneath to seal.

Gently lift and place your braid on a greased cookie sheet.

Risen and ready for the final touches before baking.

Brush a mixture of egg and water over your loaf.
This gives you a shiny finish and allows the seeds to set.

On the braid I used poppy seeds.

And on the rolls, sesame seeds.