Braided Rolls: Jazzing up your holiday bread basket

I really do love to make rolls for big holiday dinners. I know you do, too. Then again, I’m a cookie and cake decorator at heart, so sometimes making a plain ol’ roll just doesn’t get my heart-a-pumpin’, creative-wise.

Luckily, sometime last year I came across a book online that opened my eyes about how you can really dress up your breads without buying a single special tool, or investing in a week-long class.

While puttering on my Kindle, I found The Art of Braiding Bread by Roberto von Krammer. It was under $10 at the time** and I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a go.”

**I’ve seen the price of this e-book go up and down over time, so you may need to do a little research on different options. Don’t forget your local library as an excellent (and FREE) resource!

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it, and how much I learned about braiding bread in just a few pages. Von Krammer gives several different variations for shaping, using the same number of strands, that completely change the look of the finished bread. There’s also good information (though short) on how to adjust the length of your dough rope to end up with the length bread you want.

Before seeing some of these pictures, I’d been using the classic three-strands and the more complicated six-strands for challah. Occasionally a 4-strand had crossed my path, but most often I fell back to making just plain loaves. I’m guessing many of you have been in the same boat, no?

Well, prepare to join me in changing the slow boat for a fancy new sloop, and seeing how just twisting a few strands of your favorite dough can make an ocean-wide difference in your bread basket this holiday season. We’ll take two different doughs and give each a whirl.

First up, Walter Sands’ White Bread.

Prepare the dough through the first rise, and gently deflate.

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Divide the dough in half and set one piece aside, well-covered. Divide the remaining piece into three fairly equal portions, and roll each piece out to approximately 20″. For step-by-step photos on how to get a nice even rope for braiding, see our six-strand braid blog.

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Once you have your three strands, join them together at one end and then make a classic 3-strand braid. Right over center, center becomes new right. Left over center, center becomes new left. Repeat and repeat until you’ve braided the entire length. It’s just the same motions as braiding wire, rope, or hair.

Now for the cool part.

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Divide your veeeery long braid into short pieces with a bench knife or sharp chef’s knife. I like pieces about 4″ long for a nice dinner roll.

Boom, baby! That’s a half dozen rolls right there.  Repeat with the second half of your dough for an even dozen.  IMG_0491

To finish, simply pinch the ends of each mini braid to seal. Roll the pinched dough between your fingers a little and tuck that “tail” under the braid.

Beautiful buns, ahoy!

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Now, let’s take this braid one step further. Don’t get freaked out by the picture, even though it does resemble a Kraken from the deep. It’s just our Pumpkin Yeast Bread dough, divided up.

To make a more intricate braid, divide your dough into three logs. Now, from those three logs, you’ll make nine skinny ropes.

Place three ropes together side by side and braid them to make one big “rope.” Do this for the remaining mini ropes until you have three big ropes.

Try to keep the ropes lying flat to avoid unsightly bulges. Repeat the same basic braid as before, except now each rope is comprised of three ropes together. Raising and lifting each rope rather than just tugging it will help keep your strands looking their best.

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Chop, chop, chop. Twist those ends and tuck them under, just as before. If you want you can use your hands to slightly plump the pieces into more of a round, too.

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Proofing and baking will be the same as for your regular rolls, maybe adding a little time if they’re larger than normal.

Sometimes the braids do become a little squished, and you lose some definition of your strands; but overall the results are simply stunning. If anyone at the table complains, feel free to hand them a couple of dry crackers and set them adrift in a leaky rowboat.

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My decorator’s soul is soothed, and my rumbly-tumbly soon will be, too. These hot-from-the-oven braided rolls are a delight for the eyes and the lips. I hope you have fun bringing a little bounce to your next bread basket.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour’s baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Kalisa

    “If anyone at the table complains, feel free to hand them a couple of dry crackers and set them adrift in a leaky rowboat.”

    Hear, hear!

    These braided buns are a great trick to really dress up dinner rolls! My mother can do a flawless triple braided challah but I think I will start here for my braiding career. I can’t even braid my own hair so this looks like perfect practice.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Glad you find this braiding process not too intimidating, Kalisa! And aren’t the results lovely? Barb@KAF

  2. Keri

    Beautiful! MJ, do you find that braiding affects the texture of the final baked good at all (are they a bit more dense for example)? Or is the only real change the appearance?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Keri, I do find braiding dough gives you a slightly denser product, but the effect is minimal as long as the rolls are adequately risen. Barb@KAF

    2. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Mama,
      The rolls are maybe a touch denser, like Barb said, but not leaden by any means. Great for sopping up gravy! ~ MJ

  3. waikikirie

    MJ, I just love your blogs…..Your crack me up!!! Will be trying this at some point Thanks for the info and the laughs….xoox

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      hee hee, now if only my family would think I was so funny. I regularly hear “get off the stage!” from them. 😉 ~ MJ

  4. mitzimuffins

    Wow, I’ve really got to try this. So easy to do with such professional results. If I want to freeze them can I assume I would partially bake them after the second rise and then toss them into the freezer to complete baking when I want to use them?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Exactly, just like you would do “regular” rolls. It’s all about the shaping. 🙂 ~ MJ

    1. Tami

      I really enjoyed watching the video. I think I’ll first practice the braiding techniques with some play dough. LOL

    2. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      hee hee, I was a pre-school and kindergarten teacher for years before coming to KAF. I’m old friends with Play-doh! ~ MJ

  5. Jo-Anne

    I’m getting ready to make my potato rolls and pumpkin rolls for Thanksgiving. I will certainly use this braiding technique this year! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  6. zanychar

    What excellent timing! I just started my dough for pumpkin cranberry rolls for Thanksgiving and will try these braiding techniques. I enjoyed watching the lady on the facebook link too. Such great ideas and she makes it look so easy! Thanks for sharing everyone.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      That dough is a bit sticky for making fancy braids, but you should be able to do a nice 3 strand with it. Enjoy! ~ MJ

  7. Kris

    Could you please tell me more about partial baking after second rise and then freezing! What a concept! (new to me obviously) and perfect for the upcoming holidays and after, as I bake 2-3 times a week for a most appreciative family and friends group.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Kris,

      The technique is called par-baking. Start the bake as usual, then bake for only about 80% of the full time. The rolls should not look doughy any longer and should just be barely browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Wrap well, label and freeze. Then thaw overnight in the fridge. In the morning, the rolls go into a hot oven, same temp as before, to finish baking. This works really well, especially if you just want a few rolls at a time. Happy baking! ~ MJ

  8. LDej

    The rolls look amazing. Just wondering if you could do a tutorial like this for makings Challah bread, I make it all the time but would like the real method. If you could it would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  9. CTSwanson

    what is normal proofing and baking for these rolls? I have not made scratch rolls before (yes I am ambitious) although I bake regularly. Convection oven will be used for these.
    Thanks and gobble, gobble…

    Reply
  10. Dawn

    I’m a vegan, and I bake only gluten free, soy free, dairy free, egg free, nut free bread. Can I use this for my bread backing needs because of my allergies?

    Thanks,

    Dawn E. Hayes

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately, braided breads are pretty much impossible if you have to bake gluten free. Most also require eggs for the best texture and for additional structure. Good luck on your search for a bread that works for you, happy baking! Jon@KAF

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