Friday, 9 September 2016

Plaited Loaf


It's the simplest of foods that brings the most joy.

The feel of kneading the dough. The process of rising and proving. The smell of a freshly baked loaf. The sound of a crunchy crust being sliced.

There's nothing more satisfying or rewarding than making a beautiful loaf of bread.

Bread is easily one of my favourite things to both bake and eat. Especially just a plain slice of warm bread with butter. Absolute bliss.

So since it was bread week on The Great British Bake off this week, I decided to try out a different loaf for a change. I originally wanted to make a herb fougasse then I found this recipe for a plaited loaf in one of my recipe books - The Great British Bake Off : Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers.

I've made a rosemary foccacia in the past and thought the fougasse was very similar so opted for the tricky plaited loaf.

Plaited Loaf
Makes 1 loaf

500g strong white bread flour
14g fast action yeast
10g salt
20ml olive oil
340ml lukewarm water
1 egg

Weigh the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and salt to separate sides of the bowl.
Pour in the oil and mix using your hands or a spoon until combined.
Add in three quarters of the water and mix with your hands until it comes together, then add in the remaining water.
Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes until silky and stretchy.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with cling film.
Leave to prove at room temperature for about an hour or until doubled in size.

After the dough has proved, knock it back by punching the air out and tipping onto a work surface.
Divide into 8 equal sized pieces and roll each piece out into thin sausage shapes about 30cm long.
Join one end of all the strands together and tack down onto the work surface, with all the strands spread out like an octopus.
Number each strand 1-8 and follow the steps below to braid the loaf. After each step, the order of the numbers will revert to the original 1-8 sequence.
1 - Place strand 8 under strand 7, then under strand 1
2 - Strand 8 over strand 5
3 - Strand 2 under strand 3, then over strand 8
4 - Strand 1 over strand 4
5 - Strand 7 under strand 6, then over strand 1

Return to step 2 and repeat from there until the whole length of the strands are plaited together.
Tuck the ends under to neaten and place on a floured baking tray.
Leave to prove for one more hour

Towards the end of the proving time, preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Just before placing the loaf in the oven, brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg using a pastry brush.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside.
Remove from the oven once baked and leave to cool.

I really want to try making some different breads, especially sourdoughs and filled breads.
What are your favourite breads to bake?

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