Eight-strand plaited loaf : The wholemeal version

So this is take two of my attempt at an eight-strand plaited loaf and I am pleased to report that it was more successful than last time. Now I must admit this post is long overdue since you can probably tell I made this at home (when I went back for Christmas by the use of baking utensils. Anyway since it has been pretty cold here for the last week or so (with the odd bit of snow), I thought I’d do my updated post on this Paul Hollywood recipe.

Wholemeal plaited loaf

Now as I was making a wholemeal version of the recipe’s white loaf, I made a few changes to the original recipe:

– 450g strong wholemeal bread flour

– 150g strong white bread flour

– 12g salt

– 12g instant yeast

– 35g unsalted butter, softened

– 400ml or so of tepid water

– Olive oil

Since flour is one of the key ingredients, I think it is best to buy a good quality bread flour as you will definitely reap the rewards on tasting. We tend to use the Allinson Flour brand and for the 450g wholemeal bread flour of this recipe, I used a combination of this seed and grain mix with this country grain mix. I particularly enjoyed the ‘country grain’ mix which had malted wheat flakes, rye flour and malted barley flour in it with the seeds as they created a lovely nutty flavour and texture. The inclusion of a little white bread flour gives the dough a slightly lighter texture as sometimes dense wholemeal flour by itself can be a bit ‘heavy’ – however if I use the same to mixes in the future I doubt I will need to even use the white flour. Obviously you can replace the quantities with whichever flours you prefer and have readily available.

Other than that, the steps of the recipe were as before. You can of course just use the recipe and make *ordinary* shaped loaves but since it was our ‘Christmas’ dinner (explanation at the end), I thought it would look pretty on the table.

1. First mix the bread flours with the yeast and salt, taking care not to let the yeast and salt mix. I like to do this in a large bowl otherwise it goes everywhere.

2. Add 3/4 of the butter and a little water at a time into the bowl. Gradually continuing mixing the dough until you have added all the butter. You don’t really need to use all the water if the dough comes together easily. It should be pliable and not too dry/wet and you can now turn it out onto a lightly oiled and clean surface.

3. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it begins to stretch back. You can test when it is ready by prodding a finger into it, if it bounces back to its original shape, it’s ready for proving. Form the dough into a rough ball shape and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling-film and leave in a warm place to prove for an hour.

wholemeal dough

Photograph is before proving

4. Knock back the dough (give it 2-3 kneads). It is now ready for plaiting. This time I took it a little more seriously and actually weighed the dough and divided it into eight equal portions. Roll out with your fingers into sausage-like strands against the surface and move your hands from the centre out to the edges each time to keep the shape even. You need quite a bit of patience here as the dough likes to stretch back so you have to persevere and I aimed for strands of about 45cm in length. It took  a good 20 minutes. Once they are all even width and length, arrange them like so:

Strands at the ready!

5. – Number them from left to right 1-8. ‘Squidge’ (technical term) the top of the strands together and tuck underneath slightly to create a neat starting point. Then:

– Place 8 under 7 and over 1

– Place 8 over 5

6. – Place 2 under 3 and over 8

     – Place 1 over 4

     – Place 7 under 6 and over 1 

7. Repeat only step 6 (all the highlighted parts above) until you run out of dough.

8. Squidge the end strands together and tuck neatly underneath again.

Plaited loaf

9. Place your now plaited loaf onto a floured large baking tray and cover again for a second proving for another hour or so.

10. Brush your loaf with beaten egg wash and bake in a 200 degrees Celsius oven for 25 minutes (thereabouts) until golden brown on top and portrays a hollow sound when gently knocking the underside of the loaf.

11. Treat with love and serve. I made this for our ‘Christmas dinner’ which was actually our New Years Day lunch/dinner and decided to cut it in half with smaller slices arranged around the plate. It does particularly well with soup. Enjoy!

1st attempt

1st attempt

2nd attempt
2nd attempt

Focaccia

I love bread, everything about it – I like eating it, taking photos of it, making it, talking to it sometimes, kneading it, the whole shebang. I can’t remember where I got this recipe from but foaccia always looked really fun to make (what with all that poking) so I thought I would give it a go.

Focaccia

Preparation time : about 3hrs (including proving time)

Baking time : 30 minutes

-500g strong white bread flour

-1 and a 1/2 tsp salt

-7g dried fast-action yeast

-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-125g ball mozzarella

-5 tbsp pesto

The thing I like about bread (the easy kind) is that it doesn’t require many ingredients, just some scales and a strong pair of arms for some kneading!

First I mixed the salt with the flour. Then mix 325ml tepid water with the yeast. Salt deactivates the raising agents in yeast so that’s why you don’t mix them altogether first. I like to turn the salt and flour onto a clean surface and make a hole in the middle of the mound (sort of like a volcano) and add the liquid yeast and olive oil a little at a time, mixing in the surrounding flour.

The dough should be pretty gloopy and fairly sticky at the moment. Knead the dough for 15 minutes pulling and stretching it so that it becomes airy. When you dent it with a finger it should bounce back almost to its former position, if not knead a little more. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Prove for an hour or until the dough is double in size.

Before

After

Hopefully you can sort of see the change in size in the’before and after photos above. The proven dough should be very airy in comparison to above. Gently tease it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and ‘knock it back.’ By this, I mean knead it a few times until its elasticity was as before (less marshamallowy and more doughy). Then stretch it out to a size of roughly 20 x 30cm onto the baking tray. Cover with a damp cloth loosely and leave until half as high again for about 45 minutes.

 

Then the fun part. Use your thumb to make the signature  ‘dimples’ in the dough and then bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Tear some strips of the mozzarella and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the bottom is fully cooked and slides off the tray.

Drizzle with a little pesto, olive oil and sea salt and it’s ready for sharing!

 

 

 

cooked as part of this menu

An Evening of Baking

Who doesn’t love an evening spent baking? I thought I’d make some of my passion fruit cake and some brownies to take along to a picnic at our local parkrun tomorrow to celebrate its first year anniversary (see links for recipes). I actually bought some espresso flavoured Green & Black’s which is absolutely scrummy for the coffee lover in me – the flavour came through the brownies just the right amount I thought (and slightly easier than going through the faff of making some strong instant coffee).

  Coffee and Hazelnut Brownies

 Passion Fruit Cake with Coconut Crumble Topping

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off ‘s most recent episode, I also attempted Paul Hollywood’s recipe for an eight-strand plaited loaf which was the technical challenge in the episode.

 

In hindsight I should have made slightly thinner strands to make a longer loaf as mine was fairly ‘chunky.’ But I think it looked pretty good even though I freestyled a bit towards the end as some strands were running out before others!

I do love the recipe’s crunchy golden crust though!

Not much left over after the gannits in our house had their share…

Please comment or share your own pictures if you had a go or made anything yummy recently! I would love to hear from you. Ta-ra!

Choose the next recipe on my blog!

Hey guys, so I have plenty of new recipes that I have been wanting to try, but not that much time – I recently started a new job at a farm where I get lots of lovely organic fruit and veg, meat and eggs, so I would love to put them to good use, but my sweet tooth also beckons…  Anyway since I can’t decide, I would love it if you would vote in my poll just below and I will try out the recipe with the most votes! Thanks!

So you can see my dilemma… it’s a pretty random bunch of recipes but I have been saving them for a while and would appreciate the votes. Ta! Also if you have any additional ideas that you think I could try, please comment and I will consider them all.

Couscous lunch.

I seem to be posting a lot of photos of my lunch recently. I think holidays are great for experimenting and trying new warm lunches rather than having cold sandwiches at school again. Anyway, here’s what I had today.

So basically I chopped up a yellow pepper into quite small chunks. Then I seasoned the dry couscous in the bowl with salt and pepper. Next I poured almost boiled water into the couscous until most of the couscous has absorbed some (I don’t like it soaking). Then cover with a lid. Meanwhile I grated some mild cheese and put this into the couscous, fluffing and mixing it in with a fork to allow the cheese to melt a bit, then pop the lid back on. Finally add the peppers and a handful of ripped basil leaves. Et voila! – done in less than 10 minutes. I also toasted some leftover bread with butter and served with a steaming cup of green tea, my favourite!

 

Classic White Loaf

Everybody should make a classic white loaf at least once in their lifetime. It’s great being able to make such a necessary food that is normally bought at the supermarket. Well after this, supermarket bread will be no more! Fresh home-made bread beats it any day. This recipe is from the Fabulous Baker Brothers series that has just finished on channel 4 which I tried out recently – with success! Unfortunately that was before I began this blog and so I am short of photos – apart from the end product. So you’ll have to make do with my literal descriptions instead. Sorry!

Classic white loaf, makes one large loaf or two small loaves

-560g strong white bread flour, the best you can get

-10g sea salt

-20ml rapeseed oil (any plant based oil such as sunflower or vegetable will do)

-5g dried yeast

-300ml warm water

Make sure you have a clean surface to start with. I normally wipe it with a damp cloth and then dry with a paper towel. Then measure the flour and salt and place in the middle of the work surface. Make a hole in the middle so that it is almost a small well with the flour surrounding it.

In a small jug, mix the yeast with warm water until dissolved. Pour this mixture into the well and gradually mix a little more flour into it until all the flour is bound with the water. It should be really sticky at this point. Drizzle the oil and continue mixing by hand, forming it into a dough. Flour the surface as needed and knead for 20 minutes. Kneading allows air to get into the dough making it soft and springy when eaten. It also enables the gluten in the starchy flour to be stretched out creating an elastic-like texture. The kneading is crucial to baking really great bread – so stick at it!

Shape the dough into a ball shape and place in a oiled/floured bowl to stop it from sticking. Dust the top with a little flour and leave in a warm place to double in size. Cover with cling-film or an elasticated shower-cap. This should take an hour or so.

Carefully scrape the dough out, which should feel springy. Shape to fit your well-oiled loaf tin. Dust with more flour and slash diagonally.

The loaf (or loaves) need to bake at 240 degrees Celsius at first for 10 minutes. Then lower slightly to 210 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes. (Bear in mind that two small loaves will cook slightly faster than one larger loaf.) To check that your loaf is cooked, slide out of tin and gently tap the bottom. It should sound hollow. Et, voila! Slice and serve up with your favourite sandwich filling.

You could also make round rolls if you wanted a great individual bread that goes well with soup starters. I’m on a mission to make some healthier wholemeal bread next, so keep your eyes peeled for the next bread post!