Monday, 9 January 2012

Plaited Poppy Seed Loaf

For Christmas, my parents bought me a copy of The Big Book of Baking, and needless to say it didn't take long for me to get my teeth stuck into it. The plaited poppy seed loaf recipe which I used here was what I decided would be the first thing I baked in 2012, and I was very happy with the results. Apparently my mum liked it as well. She had a slice one night, and then had some more the following day for her lunch. My plaiting could have been neater, as well. I normally don't care tremendously about the looks as long as the final thing tastes really nice, but this one I know could have looked much nicer if I'd just taken about ten more seconds when I did the plait. A little more info on what the recipe said (which I did) and what I probably should have done are provided in the recipe below.

  • 225g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp skimmed milk powder
  • 11/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
  • 175ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 5 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
The exact reason for the milk powder and water remains something of a mystery to me. Alternatively, just use 175ml of milk (or water on its own, which I think I may have done because I forgot about milk until after I'd already started mixing the ingredients together), and I also didn't use anything for topping the loaf but the ingredients have been included should you wish to follow the recipe as intended.

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add milk powder (if using), sugar and yeast and mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the water (or milk) and oil. Stir until the mix starts to come together then add the poppy seeds. Knead the dough until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough comes away from the bowl.
Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough on that for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled bowl and cover. Leave to prove for around 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Brush a baking tray with oil. Flour a work surface again and turn out the dough onto that. Knock back the dough and knead briefly for 1-2 minutes. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece into a long sausage or rope that's about 30cm long.
The book recommends that you take the three lengths of dough, pinch them together at one end and then plait it, and tuck the ends underneath the loaf to tidy it up. However, when I did this I ended up with the end where the dough was pinched together didn't look as good as the rest of the dough (see how the right end in the top image is just a single big mass rather than being plaited? This is the reason why). I would instead suggest putting the three lengths together, starting at the centre of the dough and plaiting from the centre to one end, then turning the loaf around and going from the centre to the other end, and tucking the ends underneath, which I think should make the loaf's plait more aesthetically pleasing.
Place the loaf on the oiled baking tray and cover. Leave to prove for a second time, this time for around 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas mark 6. To make the topping, beat together everything except the poppy seeds. Brush the resulting egg mixture over the bread, then sprinkle the poppy seeds over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

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