This loaf is something I learned to bake a couple of years ago. I’m shamelessly jumping on the National Bread Week bandwagon by publishing it now. This is an enriched loaf in that it uses milk and butter to add fat to the dough. This gives a light but slightly cake-like texture to the bread. It also means that the bread keeps well and will last a couple of days longer than a regular white loaf.
I like to make this as a plaited loaf, just because I think it looks pretty. Even though my results are more rustic than anything. You can bake it in a couple of loaf tins or even shape it into rolls. If you fancy making this loaf but are nervous about working with yeast, I urge you to give it a go. It’s something you have to get a feel for and the first time you bake with it the bread might not be perfect but you will quickly learn. To be honest I’ve never had a disaster using yeast so I can assure you that if you take your time you’ll soon be making bread with your eyes closed.
I want to stress that I am no expert and my loaves are not perfect by any means. They are good enough for me and they get better the more I make them. There are many good bakeries running bread making classes if you want to get serious about your bread.
Useful tips & links:
- I learned to make this bread using fresh yeast. As it is not always easily available I have written this recipe using fast action yeast which is widely available. This yeast can go straight into the bread mix, the others need to be activated first. The rule of thumb is for every 500g of flour you need 30g of fresh yeast, 15g of regular dried or 7g of fast action yeast.
- This guide from BBC Good Food will help you to work with your choice of yeast.
- Add a little flavour by sprinkling over some poppy seeds before baking.
- This bread will keep well for a few days but you can freeze leftover slices and use for toast or it would be ideal for French Toast.
- If you want homemade bread but don’t have time for bread to rise or want to use yeast, have a look at my Guinness Brown Bread.
- For more delicious white bread recipes see Katia’s No Knead Bread or Gastrogays Traditional Irish Batch Loaf.
Plaited White Loaf
- 325ml of full fat milk
- 25g of unsalted butter
- 500g of strong white flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1½ teaspoons of caster sugar
- 7g sachet of fast action yeast
- 2 eggs, beaten
- First you need to scald the milk. We do this because there is an enzyme in milk which interferes with yeast, scalding it removes that enzyme. Heat the milk until it starts to bubble at the sides and take it off the heat before it comes to a boil.
- Dice the butter and add it to the milk. Stir to melt the butter into the milk and set it aside to cool to blood temperature, approximately 37c. If the milk is too hot when you add it to the dough it will kill the yeast but it needs to be warm enough to activate the yeast.
- Put the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and salt to one side and pour the yeast into the other side. If the yeast is in contact with the salt or sugar too early it will hinder the yeast.
- When the milk and butter have cooled, mix together the dry ingredients. Then add about three-quarters of the liquid along with one of the beaten eggs to the flour mix. Use your hand to bring the dough together and you should have a soft, slightly sticky dough. If you need to add more milk to bring it together do it slowly so that you don’t add too much.
- I then use a stand mixer to knead the dough for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If you do not have a stand mixer knead it on a lightly oiled surface until the dough is ready. Shape the dough into a ball in place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling and leave the dough in a warm, draft free area to allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. This normally takes about an hour.
- Take the risen dough out of the bowl, knock it back and knead for another few minutes. You can just shape the dough into balls or into a rough loaf shape. However, if you want to make the plait, divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll them into lengths of about 30cm.
- Place the three lengths of dough side by side and press them together at the top. Plait the dough, then press the ends together and tuck them underneath. Don’t stress too much about it, as you can see I don’t!
- Place the plait onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Again, cover it with cling film and put it back into a warm place to prove. You want the dough to rise again by about half.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6.
- The dough is ready when it has risen and when you press it gently in the side it should spring back and only leave a little dent.
- Use the second beaten egg as a wash and brush it over the dough to create a glossy crust. If using poppy seeds sprinkle them over now.
- Bake the bread for 25-35 minutes until it is golden brown, feels light and makes a hollow sound when tapped underneath.
- Allow it to cool on a wire rack.