Eight-strand Plaited Loaf
Those of you who are as mad about cooking programmes as I am will recognise this beautiful plaited loaf from ‘The Great British Bake Off’ episode last week. I’m one of those people who watches food shows religiously. But Bake Off is one of those special ones which gets me in the mood to bake and really inspires me. As soon as I saw this technical bake, I had to give it a go. I love making breads and jumped at the thought of trying this plaited style. No I have never attempted a plaited loaf before and yes, I gave myself a hard time by choosing an eight-strand plait to be my first. I’ve now made this twice and both loaves were absolutely delicious. The plait provides plenty of chewy crust (because that is what bread is about!) and a lovely soft texture inside. My top tip with the plait is to make sure the sections of the plait are equal length and width. I had a bit of trouble with my second loaf as one of the lengths was too thin and broke during my second rise! Very frustrating. I really recommend lightly toasting a slice and slathering on some fig jam. I found this irresistible and it has now become my breakfast routine. Ok, so mine doesn’t look as gorgeous as some of the contestants loaves in this episode, but I am determined to get the hang of this and produce a perfect plait.
Ingredients – Recipe from BBC – Paul Hollywood
- 500g/1lb 2oz strong bread flour
- 2 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
- 10g/¼oz fine salt
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- extra flour for dusting
- oil for greasing bowl
- 1 free-range egg, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt
- pinch salt
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on top of the flour on one side of the bowl and add the salt on the other side. Make sure they do not touch. Stir the ingredients together until incorporated. Add a good splash of olive oil on top of the flour mix. Measure out 340ml/12fl oz of warm water and add three-quarters to the flour mixture. Mix with your hands and then add the rest of the water and mix again. Gather your dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough feels silky and springs back when touched.
Oil a large bowl and place your dough inside. Cover this with some cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. Once your dough has doubled in size, turn it out and knock the air out of it. Shape the dough into a ball.
Divide the dough into eight equal sections and roll them out into long sausage shapes, all equal in length (40 cm) and width. Lay the strands out on a lightly floured surface with the strands splayed like an octopus, pressed down together at the top so that they are attached.
Here is the braiding sequence: Number the strands of dough from 1-8 from left to right. Every time you move any strand it will take the new number of its position in the row.
Step 1: place 8 under 7 and over 1
Step 2: place 8 over 5
Step 3: place 2 under 3 and over 8
Step 4: place 1 over 4
Step 5: place 7 under 6 and over 1
Repeats step 2-5, until all the dough is braided.
Once your plait is completely braided, you can either tuck the ends underneath the loaf or chop them off and then tuck them under (I chose the latter for a neater finish.) Place the loaf on a floured tray and leave to prove for another hour, until doubled in size. Pre-heat oven at 200C/375F. Combine an egg with a pinch of salt and glaze the top of the loaf generously and for 20 -25 minutes until golden.