I saw this 8 strand loaf being made by contestants on The Great British Bake Off a few years ago, and have often wanted to try it. The recipe is one of Paul Hollywood’s on BBC Food. So I thought I would use that, except that my plaiting/braiding is different to how that recipe says to do it. I saw a video from The Bread Kitchen, where Title Nihan showed many variations on plaiting dough, and her version for 8 strands looked good enough to me.
One of the problems, it seems to me, is that the strands need to be exactly the same thickness and length to be able to get a decent plait. As with all dough it starts to rise very quickly and it also likes to shrink back after being rolled out into sausages, so I had to try to work quickly. I wasn’t entirely successful and a couple of strands shrunk more than I wanted. But I did make a fairly good attempt.
Once plaited it is acceptable to chop off the last little bit of dough from longer strands and then pinch the strands together and tuck underneath. But I decided just to tuck all the dough underneath. That means that the end of mine is not exactly neat, but it is bread and tastes just as good as the rest of the loaf.
Although this bread takes a while to make, with two sessions of proving, and is a little complicated, I found it all rather therapeutic and am very pleased indeed with the resultantant loaf. It tastes great and is ideal with soup, or something like some Brussels pate. if you wish for a taller loaf you could roll the sausages to a shorter length and then plait them. The loaf should then rise taller, but will not be so long.
8 Strand Plaited/Braided Loaf – Video
- 500g/1lb 2oz strong bread flour
- 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
- 10g/¼oz fine salt
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- extra flour for dusting
- sunflower oil for greasing bowl
- 1 free-range egg, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt
- Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and add the salt on the other side. Salt should not be placed on top of the yeast, as it can kill it and make in in-active.
- Stir the ingredients together until evenly mixed, this can be done in a stand mixer if you wish.
- Add the olive oil.
- Measure out 340ml/12fl oz water and add three-quarters to the flour mixture, and mix together, then add the rest of the liquid.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand until the dough looks silky and stretchy, or mix with the stand mixer, using the dough hook.
- This will take approximately 10 minutes by hand and 8 minutes with the stand mixer.
- Oil a medium sized mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside to rise, for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
- When risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, to knock the dough back.
- Shape the dough into a ball.
- Divide the dough into eight equal pieces then roll out each piece into a strand about 40cm/16in long.
- Lay the strands out on the lightly floured surface like an octopus, fanned out from a central point at the top.
- Stick all the touching ends to the table with your thumb.
- For plaiting/braiding let’s number the strands 1 to 8 from left to right. After each step the numbers
- of the strands will still be 1 to 8, from the position they the occupy. As you do each step you may need to just push the sides of the dough in to keep everything neat and the pattern will take shape.
- Step 1.Take strand 8 and place it across the dough and over strand 1.
- Step 2. Take strand 2 and place it across the dough and over strand 8.
- Step 3. Take strand 1 and place it between strands 4 and 5.
- Step 4. Take strand 7 and place across the dough and over strand 1.
- Step 5. Take strand 8 and place between strands 4 and 5.
- Step 6. Take strand 2 and place across the dough and over strand 8.
- Repeat Steps 2 to 6 as many times as necessary until all the dough is plaited.
- You may need to keep splaying the strands as you work, to make it easier.
- Tuck both ends of the loaf underneath to give a tidy finish.
- Place the plaited dough onto a floured baking tray, and leave to prove for another hour, until risen again.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/375F/Gas 5.
- Brush the loaf with the beaten egg wash and bake in the oven for 20-25mins.
- Remove from the oven and tap the bottom to ensure a hollow sound which indicates that the loaf is cooked.
- Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool.