Simple but so effective. You can use pretty much any loaf recipe to make this super pretty and artistic loaf, for little more effort than the average square-cut. I’ve used this to make sweet-doughs, cheese breads, fruited loaves, you name it, it works. Follow the instructions for any two-step proving recipe but instead of moulding the dough into a round or oblong at the end, follow the steps below to separate the dough and plait as many strands as you like to make a magnificent bready-masterpiece to be proud of.
- 350g strong white bread flour, plus extra
- 300g wholemeal bread flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp sugar
- 3 tsp yeast
- 1½ tbsp virgin olive oil
- 430ml tepid water
- 1 egg or olive oil to glaze
Combine the flour, seeds, sugar, yeast and salt into a big mixing bowl or the bowl of your mixer (I used a Kenwood mixer and dough hook) and mix together with your hands. In a measuring jug, measure out the warm water and oil then stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.
As a wet dough is formed, put the bowl under the mixer and knead for around 7 minutes with the dough hook on a medium-low speed. If you’re going the old-fashioned way (kudos!) make sure to flour you work surface then turn the dough out and knead for 10 mins, until the dough springs back slowly if a thumb is pushed into it, this means that strong, elastic gluten strands have begun to form, which will trap CO2 when we leave the yeast to prove.
Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough as a round in the centre, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour, until doubled in size!When it’s beefed up, turn the dough back onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, knocking back the dough to make it smooth and elastic.
Now for the trickier part. Form the dough into a rough round and use a sharp knife to divide into 3 equal parts. Roll them into equal sausages, around 30-40cm in length, depending on the desired shape of the end loaf. I like to squidge (technical term) one end of all the sausages together and plait from there to get a uniform result (see pictures below), I then shape the ends to make it pretty.
Once plaited, place the loaf on a lightly floured baking tray, recover and prove again in the warm place for another 20-30 minutes to about 1.5x the size. In this time, pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.
I like to then glaze the loaf with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt (milk or an egg glaze works too!) before baking for around 10 minutes then reducing the temperature by 20C for another 30 minutes. Aim for a well-risen loaf with a brown crust and hollow bottom, or so I’ve learnt from Bake Off 😉