Some have the custom to braid challah with six strands, so that the two loaves on the table together will total twelve strands, representing the lechem panim in the Beit haMikdash (Temple shewbread). It's also a lovely way to make an impressive-looking challah. Here's how to braid a 6-strand challah, step by step with pictures and no confusing numbered strands.
This post is part of my Complete Guide to Baking Challah.
The 6-strand braid is similar to this 5-strand braid in its sequence. Like that one, this is one of the trickier braids, but again, totally doable once you learn to identify which strand to work with.
First, identify your working strands
You're going to be working with the outer strands, the ones that are furthest to the left and furthest to the right. These are the only ones that get worked. You can sort of ignore whichever four strands are in the middle.
See the first strand to move in step 1 below? It will also be the first strand you move in step 2. The strand labeled #2 will be second to move in step 1 and second to move in step 2. There are only two steps! They get repeated.
You will want to keep track of which one of these two strands is first and second for each move. Their sides will switch, so left and right won't help you here. However, visually they're not too hard to identify.
Step up: outer strand over, other outer strand over
The set up step is easy. You're first going to the first strand all the way over on the right and move it over all the rest of the strands, over to the left:
Then, you'll take the second, leftmost strand and move it over all the way to the right:
Now your 6-strand braid is set up. You won't repeat this move again, it's only the initial move at the start of the braid.
Step 1: First strand to center
The very first strand you moved, the one that's visually at the top of the braid, will now get moved into the center of the four central strands. (Ignore the other outer strand.)
Step 2: Next to outer, over
This is the trickiest step, because you have to identify which strand you're moving. It's the one just next to whichever strand is visibly outer.
You'll repeat these two steps until the end. The side you're working on (left or right) will switch, but the pattern is the same.
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.