Here, in my little dough ball, the yeast has just been activated by warm water and kneading, and all around it yummy food is to be had: sugar, flour, egg. It's come back to life and is about to eat! It's alive, aliiiiiive.
Only 20 minutes later, the dough ball has puffed up - the yeast has been busy gobbling up the food around it and emitting gas while it eats. Yes, my dough is full of yeast fart now. Mmmmm. I kept punching down the dough every 20 minutes (as instructed) to release the gas. The yeast would keep puffing the dough back up. The longer and more slowly a bread is let to rise the more flavor it develops, because of all that yeast activity.
I've taken 1/3 out of the dough and braided it into a small braid and the rest into the larger braid. This is after 2 hours of rising and punching down.
Lay the braids on top of each other, brush with egg for a nice shiny crust. Now this is the part that seems somewhat cruel (but not really) to me. When I put the dough in the oven, the yeast goes crazy in its growth, because the temperature is so high. This causes the "spring" in a loaf of bread, that makes that great initial puff in its size. But then the temperature is so high that, of course, the yeast then dies. So, the process of baking bread is basically bringing something to life, making it work for you, then killing it off. Then you feed yourself and those around you with this whole cycle of resurrection and death. My question is: who thought this bizarre idea up in the first place?