Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Spicy & Smoky 8 Strand Plaited Loaf

I decided to make this loaf a couple of weeks ago when I could feel a cold trying to worm it's way into my system and I hoped a good dose of chilli might see it off. Sadly it didn't and I seem to have had consecutive colds for most of the month topped off this week with an ear infection. I've been wanting to write more posts but I've also been off my food the past few days as well and as a food blogger this is not a good thing. In fact when you're feeling a bit squiffy the last thing you want to do is to look at pictures of food let alone try to write about it. But this evening I sensed an improvement, I managed to demolish a Belgian bun that I bought on the way home from uni earlier without any trouble. So even though my ear still hurts at least my appetite is back, I may even manage some baking tomorrow. Anyway back to the bread. The spicing for this loaf is very similar to the mix that I use in my chilli con carne although with less heat for the bread, incidentally mine and my boyfriend's favorite meal and the ultimate comfort food, if enough people ask nicely I may share the recipe one day. I've also used 1/5 wholemeal flour but you could use all white flour if you prefer. I originally planned to make a straightforward loaf but then remembered that the Fresh From The Oven challenge this month is a plaited loaf. I could have played it safe and gone for the easy 3 strand approach but after watching the Great British Bake Off Master Class episode where Paul Hollywood showed us all how to do it properly, I felt like having a go. Fortunately I have the book that goes with the most recent series which contains the instructions and whilst waiting for the dough to prove I had a little practice with some pieces of string. I don't think mine is anywhere near perfect but I'm very proud of myself for a first attempt.

Ingredients - makes 1 loaf (plaiting method adapted from 'The Great British Bake Off: How to Turn Everyday Bakes Into showstoppers')

400g strong white bread flour
100g strong wholemeal bread flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 whole clove
1/4 tsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp molasses sugar or dark muscovado sugar
300ml lukewarm water

  • In a pestle and mortar grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and the clove to a powder and then add the other spices and mix together. In a large bowl combine the flours, salt, yeast, spices, garlic and sugar. Add the water along with the tomato puree and olive oil and work everything together into a dough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic and then leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl for about an hour or until doubled in size. 
  • Knock back the dough on a lightly floured work top and divide into 8 equal sized pieces and roll each piece into a sausage shape approximately 40cm long. Lay the pieces of dough out vertically on the work top, lightly press the pieces of dough together at the ends furthest away from you, also gently press the dough onto the worktop to stop it moving around while you plait. Spread the pieces of dough out in front of you to look like sun rays or an octopus and number each piece 1-8 starting from the left. Just remember that every time you move a piece of dough to renumber it, i.e. so the piece on the far left will always be number 1 and the piece on the far right will always be number 8 and so on.
  • This is the bit where practising first with string or ribbons can be helpful if like me you have trouble visualising what you're supposed to do. 
  • Step 1: place piece 8 under piece 7 then over piece 1. 
  • Step 2: piece 8 over piece 5
  • Step 3: piece 2 under piece 3 then over piece 8
  • Step 4: piece 1 over piece 4
  • Step 5: piece 7 under piece 6 then over piece 1
  • Repeat steps 2-5 until all the dough has been plaited and then neatly tuck the ends under the loaf. Put the loaf on a floured baking tray and cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise until nearly doubled in size, 40 minutes to an hour. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200C and bake for 25 minutes until the bottom is hollow when tapped. 

I'm entering this into the Fresh From The Oven challenge this month hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and organised by Claire at Purely Food and Michelle from Utterly Scrummy Food For Families. I'm also entering this into Bake Your Own Bread and into Yeast Spotting.

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