It looks complicated, but this 5-strand challah has a very easy pattern and is a great way to level up your challah braiding skills. Here's how to braid a 5-strand challah, woven style, step by step with photos.
This post is part of my Complete Guide to Baking Challah.
There are two different ways to shape a 5-strand challah braid. This one looks like a flat, woven plait and has an easy-to-remember braiding pattern; the other has a more complex braiding sequence and looks like two 3-strand braids stacked one on top of the other. I think this is one of the easiest upgrades to your basic 3-strand braid (which, for the record, never ceases to be lovely, but sometimes you're feeling moreish, yeah?).
You'll begin by dividing your dough (or section of dough, if you're making more than one loaf) into five parts:
Roll each into a strand and shmush the ends together firmly. Next, arrange your five strands into a group of two and a group of three. (It doesn't make a difference which side starts out which; here I've created my first group of 3 on the right):
You're always going to be moving the outermost strand of the group of 3. All you have to do is look down, find the outer of the current group of 3, and move it to the center:
When you move the outermost strand of the 3 into the center, arrange it so that it's forming a new group of 3 from the former group of 2. This is a lot harder to write out than to actually do. You'll instinctively want to plunk down the outermost strand by the old group of 2:
Ignore everything else and pick up the outermost strand from the group of 3 (this time, on the left in the picture below). Move it to the center again, making a group of 3 on the right (back to how you started):
That's it! Keep going and you'll see a pretty braid forming:
Braid all the way till the end, tucking the ends firmly under the load. This is what it'll look like:
Compared to a 4-strand braid, the 5-strand as we've made it here will be flatter and woven-looking:
And compared to the braided 5-strand challah (the other way to shape a 5-strand loaf):
After shaping, continue with your challah recipe as usual: leave the loaf to proof while you heat up the oven, brush with egg wash, and bake for the same amount of time.