This was adapted slightly from this recipe http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/eight-strand_plaited_57815
It’s made to sound way more complicated than it really is! Once you get used to the odd plaiting instructions it’s ok really.
500g/1lb 2oz of strong white bread flour
7g sachet fast action dried yeast
- 340ml water
1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 egg (for brushing on top, can use milk instead if you prefer)
- black sesame seeds and sunflower seeds for sprinkling on top
1) Measure yeast into a bowl. Sprinkle yeast on one side, salt on the other. They shouldn’t be touching as salt directly on yeast will kill it. Mix them together.
2) Add oil and 3/4 of the water. Mix together. Gradually add the rest of the water (might not need all)
3) Knead for 10 to 20 minutes until it is soft, smooth and passes the windowpane test. Tear off a small piece and stretch it between your fingers to a thin membrane. If the dough is ready you should be able to do this without the dough tearing.
4) Place into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Let rise for an hour. If it’s really cold you can do this in an oven set to a very low temperature around 30C. You can also let it rise overnight in the fridge.
5) Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. You can weigh each piece to be extra accurate.
6) Roll each piece to about 40cm long.
7) Lay all the pieces so that they are fanning out from a single point. Like this:
Number the strands from 1 to 8, starting from your left. When you move a strand it will adopt a new number according to where it is in the sequence from left to right. You just re-assign the numbers every time you move a strand. Search youtube for some good videos on plaiting the strands.
8) Now follow these instructions:
a) Place 8 under 7 and over 1
b) Place 8 over 5
c) Place 2 under 3 and over 8
d) Place 1 over 4
e) Place 7 under 6 and over 1
f) Repeat steps b to e until fully plaited.
9) To tidy up you can tuck the ends under the loaf, or chop off the ends. I prefer to chop off the end. Use the remainder for a bun or something. Lift and quickly transfer to the baking tray.
10) Leave to prove for around an hour again
11) Preheat oven to 200C
12) Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle on seeds and salt to taste. Bake for 20 to 30 mins. Should be a deep golden brown. If it is browning too fast – cover with foil.