Braiding doesn’t just have to be for sweets. I found myself with some 2-week-old dough (truth be told it was closer to 3 weeks) and it was a little wet to shape a nice tall boule. We always recommend using older dough for flatbreads or baking it in a loaf pan, since it can lose some of its rising power in the later stages of storing. Well, it turns out this older dough makes a wonderful braided peasant bread loaf, with lots of flavor and a really open crumb. Because the braid isn’t as domed as a boule, the older dough has all the rising power it needs.
My dough was made with all-purpose flour, a bit of rye, whole wheat and Platinum yeast by Red Star. Like I said, it was almost 3 weeks old, but this technique can also be done with fresh dough and really any of our doughs, not just the Peasant dough recipe will work great.
Braided Peasant Bread
Flour for sprinkling
To form the braid:
Cut the dough in 3 equal pieces. Jeff and I tend to use a Bench Scraper for lots of bread baking tasks, including dividing dough.
Form the pieces into balls. This extra step just helps make a uniform rope to braid.
I like to use the letter fold method to get the ropes started. This is the same technique you’d use to make a perfect baguette.
Stretch the dough into ropes. Because you’ve handled the dough it may resist being stretched, so just let it rest for 5 minutes before continuing. If your kitchen is dry, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough.
Now it should stretch easily. They should be about 15-inches long.
Braid the dough, starting at one end.
Once it is braided, tuck the ends under the loaf.
Lay the braid on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper or a Silicon Baking Mat. Let rest for at least one hour, but up to 1 1/2 for a more open crumb.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (If you use a dough other than peasant or master then check the recommended baking temperature.) Add steam to the oven, just as you would for the Master recipe.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until deep brown.
Allow to cool completely. Enjoy!