The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Braiding Sourdough

Lap's picture

Braiding Sourdough

I am looking to braid my sourdough. I normally retard in the refrigerator for the overnight before baking. I assume I braid before i retard. Most of the discussion in the forum appear around Challah....Has anyone done? Any pointers....guess I need to roll before?



proth5's picture

Are you normally retarding for the final proof (after shaping) or for the bulk ferment (prior to shaping)?

I ask because in my experience retarding sourdough for the bulk ferment can result in a dough that is resistant to elongated shaping - which is what is required for braiding.

Challah is usually a straight dough (and usually commercially yeasted)  which will not have these issues.  It tends to get a retarded bulk ferment.

So, my recommendation would be to shape a sourdough braid prior to retarding it. If you insist on retarding for the bulk ferment - you may encounter some difficulty in shaping the pieces to be braided, but it can probably still be accomplished with some care and effort.

Some tips, from my work with braiding:

Be very careful in your scaling of the divided dough.  This is where fussing over small weight differences will pay off in a more consistent and beautiful braid.

Pre shape carefully.  I have been most successful in pre shaping into small, somewhat tight cylinders. Nothing will help you more than a good pre shape.

Allow suffiicient time for the dough to relax after pre shaping.  This may be somewhat longer than your normal time.  I often allow up to a half an hour.

Begin a braid strand by making a "dog bone." Use both hands to press down on the center of the dough and roll until you have the center part at aout the diameter tha you want with bulges on either side.  Then keeping your finger tips and the heels of your palms on the bench, roll the dough with downward and outward pressure to make a strand.  If you feel too much resistance - stop and let the dough relax for a few minutes before rolling.

The force for rolling comes from your shoulders - not your forearms or hands.  This is especially important when shaping more resistant dough.

Use as little flour on the bench as possible - in my dry climate that is absolutely no flour.  In fact, I use a spray bottle to mist the bench so that te dough has a little "grip" on the bench.  This is something that take expereince to feel - but once you get it is perfectly obvious.

Braid loosely and proof thoroughly.  Nothing ruins a braid more than an underproof and an "explosion" in the oven.

And most of all , the good folks here love picture of what you have done.

Hope this helps.

Happy Braiding!

dabrownman's picture

I have with SD braiding is that usually the hydration is very high over 75% which makes the dough sticky and not wanting to be nice for braiding or shaping into knots or Kaiser rolls..  Bench flour can cure some of that if you don't take the hydration down.  Letting the dough rest properly as Pat says makes braiding less of a chore and more baker friendly too.