There is usually no difference between the flavor, texture and ingredients used for a braided loaf and a sandwich loaf, only the method differs. In this post, I'll show you the process of making a 3 braided loaf. Please excuse me for the quality of the photographs today since I had to click them while simultaneously shaping the loaf(and I ended up giving my camera a makeover of grease and flour).
Makes one medium sized loaf.
Ingredients are the same as in the Sandwich Loaf.
Method remains the same as well till the initial (first) proofing stage.
After you have taken out the dough from the refrigerator, keep it aside, covered till it reaches room temperature. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, punch the dough and knead it on the counter for 2-3 minutes(If you are making the bread the same day, punch and knead the dough once it is double it's original size).
Divide the dough into three pieces that are equal in size and weight. With the palms of your hands, form the first piece into a rough ball. Pat the dough on the counter to form a rectangle. Now fold one-third of the dough till the center of the dough(like you fold a letter) and press the edges of the folded part against the dough to seal the fold. Now fold again and seal the edges with your thumb or the edge of your hand. It should now look like a cylinder.
Remember to sprinkle flour on the counter throughout the process if the dough is too sticky to handle. Repeat with the other two pieces of the dough. Spray some oil on all the pieces, cover with a cling wrap and leave it for 20 minutes.
Now hold both the ends of one piece of the dough with both your hands. Stretch the dough a little at a time till it is around 8-9 inches long(if the dough does not get stretched and keeps coming back to its original size, leave it for 5-10 mins more and then try again). Place it on the counter and press in the middle with the edge of your hand along the length of the dough.
Now fold one end of the dough to meet the other and seal the fold with your thumb or the edge of your hand.
Rock and roll the dough on the counter to stretch it starting from the middle and moving towards the end to form a long rope(how long you want the rope to be depends on your baking sheet. Leave about 3 inches of space on either side of the baking sheet for the dough to expand during proofing and baking). Repeat the process for the other two pieces of the dough. Place all the ropes facing you and number them as 1,2,3.
Starting from the middle, place 3 on 2 and then 1 on 2. Keep repeating these steps until you reach the bottom of the rope(remember that the numbers would change with each step. After each step, you have to number the ropes again and proceed). Pinch the ends together at the bottom to seal.
Rotate the dough 180 degrees. Number the ropes again but this time it would be 3 under 2 and then 1 under 2. Repeat the steps until you reach the bottom of the dough keeping in mind that the numbers of the dough would change with each step depending on their position. Pinch the ends to seal.
Line your baking sheet with a parchment paper and place the shaped loaf on the sheet. Spray or brush it with oil and cover with a cling film.
Once the dough has nearly doubled in size, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Remove the cling film and bake the bread for about 45 mins to 1 hour(you can brush the dough with egg wash or milk if you want to before you place it in the oven). The bread is done when it has browned on all sides and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with your knuckles. Remove the bread from the baking sheet and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.