Breads can be baked in rectangular pans, shaped into round boules, divided into dinner rolls or braided into long, elegant loaves. Often, shaping the bread is one thing that intimidates people and keeps them from baking bread in their own kitchens. Working bread dough with your hands is one of the most fun parts of breadmaking, even if it can get a little bit messy from time to time, but it’s not difficult to see that tools to help streamline the breadmaking process are just going to make baking bread at home more accessible to more people.
One of the more interesting breadmaking tools I’ve seen lately is this Kaiser Bakeware Braided Bread Mold. The commercial-quality nonstick pan bakes a 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread that looks like it has been braided, so all you have to do after proofing your bread is to let it rise in the pan and you get a lovely looking finished loaf. Just about any type of bread can be baked in this form, from soft challah breads to crustier loaves. The pan browns evenly and takes all the worry over getting that braid “just right” out of your bread baking – a relief to more than a few home bakers who I know worry about the look and shape of their loaves – though you won’t quite get the same handmade look from this perfectly shaped pan.
If you do want to braid your own down, here is a handy tutorial that will walk you through making 3, 4 and 5-strand braids for challah or other bread doughs.