Thought I would introduce myself to this site by telling the story of how I first learned to make bread. I started baking bread out of necessity - I grew up in a Jewish household where every friday night we would have a traditional Chala ("Jewish sacremental egg bread"). My mom would always buy the Chala from a local bakery, so I always (naively) assumed you needed some sort of special equipment in order to make it.
When I moved away for college though, there were no bakeries which produced Chala - while there were some egg breads available (...Italian I believe?) they all had milk or dairy products in them, which unfortuantely made them unacceptable replacements for a Chala. Visiting an aunt one Friday night, I mentioned my predictiment, and she suggested "Why don't you just make it yourself?" - the thought never occured to me that was even possible!
A few Google searches later, I had a recipe. Youtube to the rescue to teach me brading techniques. My first few attempts were somewhat "ugly" - I couldn't master getting the right thickness of dough role, and didn't realize you had to taper the rolls at their edges in order to get the right Chala shape - narrow at the edges and wide in the middle. After a number of tries though I began to get the handle of it....
The first few times I made the Chala the crust just didn't taste right. Doing some more research, I learned about "Egg Washes", as well as mixing sugar, flour and oil together to make a desert-like topping for it. I also learned a secret for extra delish (although potentially unhealthy) Chala- regardless of the receipe, take an egg, seperate the yolk from the white, mix the yolk in the batter and the white for the egg wash.
I'm still honing my Chala baking skills weekly - I sometimes run into problems where I make the dough too heavy with whole grains, and it has trouble rising. Other times I let it rise too much, and the braids "crack" when baked. Luckily the appearance isn't as important as the taste though :)