This poppy seed plaited loaf is delicious and easier to make than it might look.
I love baking bread. There’s just something so cathartic about thumping the dough about. And the aroma as it bakes? Divine. However, I know that the mere thought of attempting to bake bread sends shards of fear right through the hearts of even the most able of bakers.
However, successfully making bread is not as hard as you might imagine. Start off simple – these oat bread rolls are a good recipe to begin with. Once you’ve mastered the basics, move on to something a little more adventurous.
It’s perhaps hard to believe that just a couple of years ago I’d never so much as held a bit of dough in my hand. Now I try my hand at all sorts such as naan bread and Pepper Jack spelt focaccia bread.
The measurements below make two really nice-sized loaves – halve the ingredients if you don’t need two!
- 300 ml (1 + 1/4 cups) lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- 25 g [fresh yeast|https://www.theculinaryjumble.com/conversions-and-substitutes/ ]
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 450-600g (3½-4½) cups bread flour
- 1 beaten egg (for the egg-wash)
- poppy seeds (for sprinkling)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and then add the oil and sugar. Allow to sit for around 10 minutes until the yeast starts to work, and the mixture froths. Beat in the egg.
Combine 450g flour and salt, then add in the wet ingredients. Mix the dough until it starts to come together. Sprinkle a surface with plenty of flour and then pour out the bread dough (it will be very sticky). Gradually add more flour until you are able to knead the dough and only add more when the dough becomes too sticky to knead. The aim is to only use as much flour as needed - too much will result in a much drier bread.
Continue to knead the dough until it is pliable and smooth (around 5-10 minutes) and then place back in the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for about one hour.
Knock back the dough and form into a rough ball. Cut it into two pieces and put one aside. Taking the first piece, cut that into three reasonably equal pieces. For every piece, fold over each side to make a rough rectangle shape and with the folded side underneath, start to roll the dough out into a long thin shape. Place on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper. Do the same with the other two pieces so that you have three long "braids" of reasonably equal thickness and length (don't worry too much about them being identical as it won't matter so much when the bread has been baked).
With all three braids lined up alongside each other, place the top part of the two outside braids on top of the middle one. Start to braid the three pieces of dough together as you would hair. When you get to the end, tuck the bottom underneath the bread so that it holds in place when baking (do the same with the top, too). Repeat with the remaining dough so that you have two loaves.
Brush the egg wash all over the tops and sides of the loaves and then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover and leave to rise for a further 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400ºF).
Bake for around 15 minutes, until the bread is brown on top and when the bottoms are tapped, sound hollow. Serve either warm from the oven or allow to cool completely. Enjoy!