The fantastically fiddly but satisfying plait – from Paul Hollywood’s ‘Bread’ series on BBC.
This recipe is very similar to the wholemeal bloomer but uses only strong white flour as it has more stretch than the wholemeal. Put 500g strong white flour a large bowl, on one side of the bowl add 10g salt and on the other 7g fast action yeast (normally the green tub as opposed to the yellow one). Add 240ml water (cool rather than warm – this gives the bread longer to rise and mature) and a glug of olive oil. Make a claw shape with your fingers and mix this together.
Bring everything together into a shaggy mess and knead it until it leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Pour a little oil onto your work surface and hands and knead the dough for 10mins. The dough should become smooth and silky. Lightly oil the bowl and return the dough, cover and leave for a couple of hour or until tripled in size. Knock it back and shape into a ball.
Now for fiddly and faffy part (isn’t that why you’re here?!):
- Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces
- Lay the strands out like an octopus with them joined at the top and fanning out in an arch bellow
- In your head number the strands 1-8 from left to right – this is the number of the place not the strand, so when a strand is moved they are renamed according to their new position
- It is important to keep the strands relatively tight and heading away from the top knot as you plait:
- Place 8 under 7 and over 1
- Place 8 over 5
- Place 2 under 3 and over 8
- Place 1 over 4
- Place 7 under 6 and over 1
- Repeat steps 2-5 until the plait is finished
- Tuck in the ends to neaten it up
- Place on a floured baking tray
Phew. Now that the hard bit is over, leave the loaf to prove (rise) for an hour or so. Gently brush the loaf with a beaten egg this will give it a lovely sheen when it comes out and bake for 20-25mins at 200°C.
Cool on a rack and wow your friends for tea!