Nice going, Carnivore! Woould that I could have that kind of luck! I'm getting closer, but haven't attained that inner softness you describe, darn it!
It does seem the amount of fat and the softness of the dough have a real effect on the quality of the loaf.
I, too, made a braided loaf a while back, using essentially the same recipe as for regular white bread. It sure looked pretty, but was just as heavy inside as all the others.
The texture on all my loaves has been quite fine and regular. I see pictures of rustic breds with large holes in them, and I can't figure out how to get that. Do you know? I've tried varying the kneading from a very little to a whole lot - not diffeence.