The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Challah braiding crutch

davidg618's picture

Challah braiding crutch

I bake challah rarely, once every two or three months, usually two loaves. One I pan bake; it gets sliced and frozen for French toast, two or four slices thawed each time; it lasts a good while. The second loaf I braid, only because I like the way the shiny, chocolate-colored, bulging braid looks: eye candy. However, each time I bake challah I have to relearn six-strand braiding--my favorite. I baked challah two days ago, and the braiding was especially frustrating, in part because I'd tried a new recipe--it turned out delicious, but I'd made the dough softer than usual--as well as having to, once again, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, look at my cheat-sheet, make a move, answer the phone, try to figure out where I was...well, you know the rest. I finally got it to look half-way decent; proofing, oven spring and browning aided considerably.

Yesterday, I recalled how, when I was about ten years old, I'd learned to braid four strands of flat, plastic lacing--called "Gimp"--into an attractive round braid. With a metal snaphook on its beginning end,  a yard of it, doubled back on itself and the loop closed with a square-braided slide finished in a Turks-head knot it made a handsome lanyard. I got so good at making lanyards I supplemented my meager weekly allowance by making them for other, less-talented Boys' Club campers, and kids in my neighborhood. I recall I also made a few dog leashes too.

With that memory recalled...

I made my self a practice string which I carry with me in my shirt pocket.  Now, at most free moments, I take it out; my latest mantra is, 6 over 1, 2 over 6, 1 over 3, 5 over 1, 6 over 4,...etc., etc., etc.

David G


dwcoleman's picture

There were at least 2 styles of braiding that I knew.  One produced the square braid, the othe was rectangular.

I'll have to give it a try.

Elagins's picture

when I was writing the challah braiding section and discovered that it's the low 4-strand pattern. 

You can also find the NYB videos for high 4-strand and 6-strand at:  and

respectively, or on the Resources tab at


davidg618's picture

By the way, I made your Rich and Sweet recipe for the bake. It's got great flavor, but next time I'll make it somewhat stiffer; it really was too soft for braiding easily.


David G

breadsong's picture

Hello David,
That's a really good idea, using string to practice braiding with.
I think I will try that, to get some practice in, before attempting a 6-strand with live dough :^)
(Your post reminds me of this video, by Mark of The Back Home Bakery, where he uses a dishcloth to practice loaf shaping; thanks to both you and Mark for your helpful ideas!).
:^) breadsong