Retarding dough whilst shaping a complex decorative loaf?
I've been trying to make a decorative centrepiece loaf, which requires quite a bit of handling and shaping. It's a basic sweet dough (500g strong flour, 60g butter, 10g yeast, 10g salt, 250ml milk, 40g sugar) with some added flavourings, but my problem is this:
When shaping, I have to roll out around 30 individual thin 'pencils' of dough, and then plait these in bunches of three. The process of divding and shaping the dough takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and I'm worried about some bits proofing before others, or about knocking the air out of the pieces that are last to be shaped. Is there any way to get around this?
I was considering putting portions of the dough in the fridge whilst I deal with the rest of it, but just wanted a second opinion.
Also: as each section is plaited, I'm finding it harder to judge when the dough's proofed - the plait seems to inhibit the expansion a little, so it doesn't reach double size in the same say that a normal loaf might. How should I judge the proofing time if I can't go by the visible increase in volume?
Thanks so much for any help you can give!