So you want to weave a 12 strand braid of bread, hm?

Well alright then.  Let's get started! 

I recommend challah (Jewish egg bread) or pan au lait (milk bread) for this - anything stretchy and chewy will work, though challah and pan au lait have given me the best successes.  After your bread dough's been benched and everything, you'll need to portion out 12 strands:

They need to be roughly the same length, but definitely the same thickness.  For my example here I've used marzipan ropes, because I did not have 3 hours to whip up some challah.  What I did have, however, is marzipan.  So there you go.  Set 2 ropes aside for the center piece, and lay out your ropes - bend them in half, and lay them out, overlapping each other at the center, like this:

Continue for all ten strands, moving in a circle.  When you've come to the last one, tuck that last strand *under* the first one you set down.  It will look roughly like this:

Now, we're going to group them off in sets of four.  It is VITALLY important that the strand on the left of the group is one of the *under* strands.  You can see what I mean here.  We'll number these strands 1 through 4.

Starting with the strand on the left of the group, strand 4, fold that strand OVER strand 3, the one to the left of it.

Now move strand 4 UNDER strand 2.

And now OVER strand one.  

This should seem pretty familiar - we're doing nothing more than weaving.  Over and under.  Over and under.  Continue on down until you run out of strand.  Don't make your weaving too tight - your bread needs room to proof up, and when you bake it off, oven spring will tear your braid to pieces if it's too tight.  I made mine EXTRA loose, since I'm working with marzipan and want you to see the configuration of the strands easily.  Your strands should be touching, you can't see the table through it, but not pulled taut. 

Cut the ends off and tuck the end under all nice-like and pretty.

Now scootch on over and do that with the rest of the groups.  You can actually have as many arms on this as you want; just keep the number of strands even and pair them off in groups of 4.  Someday I'll do a sixteen strand, just because I can.  Your braid will look like this, but better, when you're done.

Now, remember the two strands you set aside?  yep.  Thought so.  Make those into a 2 strand braid.  You should know how to do one of those, if not - you're on the internet.  Go find out how.  You're going to ball up the 2 strand, and place it in the big gaping hole in the center of your fabulous braid.  Mine came out so fabulous, it blurred the photo a little.

For another festive touch, you can curl the arms in.  It makes it look like a starfish or the glaive from the movie Krull or something.  But it's pretty.  Something else cool to do is to sprinkle the arms with seeds after the egg wash - I like to do herbs; a different herb per arm.  Rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and sage.  Or you could do seeds; poppy, white sesame, anise, dark sesame, I dunno.  The possibilities are endless.  Just don't go all weird and use chocolate or crushed crayons or something.

There you go!  Your very own 12 strand braid!  Aren't you proud?


**Update:  I did a 16 strand braid.  Because I could.  Before I baked it into a bowl shape, it looked like this:






























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