Sunday, October 16, 2011

Handmade loaves: Berne Brot Winston knot

My friend Di, host of the most excellent Virtual Cookie Exchange last winter and Sundae Sunday this past summer, decided that now that the weather is finally cooling off, it's time to bake bread! Her autumn event is dedicated to handmade loaves.

My first Mellow Bakers bread for October is Berne Brot, a Swiss challah-like braided bread. Unlike challah, Berne Brot uses butter and milk. This is a quick one-day bread; I started mixing the ingredients when I got home from work and baked the bread before bed. I couldn't decide on the type of braid to use, and almost went with a simple three or four strand braid. But as I was paging through the Bread chapter on braiding, I re-encountered the Winston Knot, a braid I had tried with challah...unsuccessfully. My biggest problem back then was that I didn't roll the strands long enough, so I ran out of dough before I was through.

This time, I followed the wonderfully clear instructions Celia offers in her Winston Knot tutorial...and it worked! Hurrah!

I made a half recipe, which made about 840 grams of dough; six balls of 140 g, rolled out to about 60 - 65 cm (24" or 25"). I tried to err on the side of too-long, so that I wouldn't run out like last time. My dough was a lot softer than challah; in his braiding section, JH suggests dusting the braid strands with the tiniest, lightest dusting of flour to help prevent softer dough strands from baking into each other; it seemed to work.

The taste was similar to challah or a less-buttery brioche, so as we always do with both of those, we made French toast.

Berne Brot
adapted from Jeffrey Hammelman's Bread

425 g bread flour
30 g vital wheat gluten
204 g milk, warmed
1 egg yolk
1 egg
61 g unsalted butter, softened
26 g sugar
9 g salt
3 g instant yeast

1. Stir together the flour, vital wheat gluten, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the yeast into the warmed milk, and then stir the milk, eggs, and butter into the dry ingredients. Stir (I used my dough whisk) until it all comes together in a large, shaggy mass.
2. Knead in a stand mixer or by hand for 3 or 4 minutes, until the dough has developed.
3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour. Stretch and fold the dough, recover the bowl, and let rise for another hour.
4. Split the dough into equal-sized balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes. Then roll each ball into a long strand and proceed with braiding. If you're interested in trying the winston knot, I strongly recommend checking out Celia's tutorial.
5. Place the braid on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover with baker's linen and plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (JH warns against letting the braid rise fully before baking; he recommends letting it rise to about 85%.)
6. Thoroughly brush the loaf with an egg wash.
7. Bake at 375º for 35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200º.
8. Cool on a rack.

Head over to Di's blog later this week to see the handmade loaf round-up!


  1. That looks great! Your braiding is amazing! Maybe someday I'll get the nerve to try that.

  2. What a beautiful loaf! I'm definitely going to have to try that shaping at some point--thanks for the tips. =) And thanks for baking along with me!

  3. Gorgeous, Abby! Now I want French toast. :)

  4. The braid on your bread looks wonderful! It sounds like it would make the best french toast.

  5. What a wonderful looking braid!! Very impressive.

  6. How gorgeous! I've never seen a bread braided like that. I guess I've never seen a Winston Knot. Thanks for including the recipe and a link to the tutorial. Fall and winter sure are wonderful times for baking bread so I might have to give this one a try.

  7. Beautiful Abby! Thanks so much for the links!

    Butter and milk loaves are divine, looks like the perfect French toast! :)

  8. I want to make this right now! So intimidating for someone who cannot braid to save her life, but I want to make this and show up with it at Thanksgiving! Beautiful are so great with the breads!