Bread can be very relaxing to make and bake. This braided Italian loaf, covered with sesame seeds delivers a great texture and lovely flavour to savour after a relaxing day baking.
For a very tasty bread I don’t think you can go far wrong if some sesame seeds are sprinkled over the crust. So for this quite basic Italian bread, which is to be plaited or braided, that is what is sprinkled over the dough before baking. The recipe is closely based on one I saw on King Arthur Baking. Now, when reading that recipe I adhered to the metric weights shown, rather than the cup measures, as there seemed to be a big discrepancy between the two. In fact I wrote a question on the website to ask about the discrepancy and the reply I received was to always use a scale and weigh ingredients, which begs the question why even put cup measures in the recipe.
Although the King Arthur Recipe calls for all purpose flour, which is usually plain flour in the UK, I used bread flour. The reason for that is that KA all purpose flour in 11.7% protein and UK plain flour is about 10% protein. That difference would have a big impact on the structure of the gluten and the finished bread. So I used bread flour, which has a higher protein level, of about 12%.
So, on to this lovely bread. It takes a while to make, as it uses a starter, which is proofed over night. Then when the dough is made it is proofed for 90 minutes. It is to about 90 minutes more once the dough is shaped. But the effort is worth it since the resultant bread has a lovely crumb aand crust with a great flavour which is greatly enhanced by the seeds.
Mine turned out very well indeed, delivering on flavour and texture. I did make hard work of braiding/plaiting, seeming to make it more complicated than it actually is. With three strands it is very simple and my mind went a bit blank so I almost messed it up.
This is a bread I shall make again soon, since I enjoyed it so much.
For a very attractive and different type of load try Cottage Loaf
- 85g(1/2 cup+1 tbsp) bread flour
- 113ml(1/2 cup minus 2 tsp) lukewarm water
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
- 325g(2 cups + 3 tbsp) bread flour
- 170ml(3/4 cup minus 2 tsp) lukewarm water
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 8 g(1 1/4 tsp) salt
- 1 egg white
- sesame seeds to sprinkle
- Place the 85g flour, 113 ml water and the 1/8 teaspoon of yeast into a bowl and mix vigorously until everything is smoothly combined.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight, so the starter activates and becomes frothy on top.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer(you can do it all by hand if you wish) place the starter, flour, yeast, salt and the water.
- Then start to knead with the dough hook, on a low speed at first, the ingredients until they come together.
- Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is stretchy and slightly smooth. It should have some structure to it.
- Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then allow it to proof for 90m minutes.
- After 45 of those 90 minutes, turn the dough over and pull it up on itself a few times and gently deflat the dough. Then cover and finish the proofing.
- Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface.
- Divide it into 3 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into an 18 inc(45cm) rope.
- Join the 3 ropes together at one end and braid them, placing the right rope over the middle, then the left rope over what is now the middle. Continue until the braid is complete and tuck the ends neatly underneath.
- Transfer to a parchment lined(or greased) baking tray.
- Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, leaving room for the dough to expand.
- Proof for 60 to 90 minutes, until the dough has risen a lot and is very puffy.
- As that time comes to an end preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/425 F.
- Carefully, and gently, brush the top with egg white.
- Liberally sprinkle sesame seeds all over the dough.
- Bake in the oven for between 25-35 minutes. The longer it is baked will give a firmer crust. The internal temperature will be at least 88C/190F. After 30 minutes my temperature was 97C/207F.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before slicing.