Honestly, I’m not good with bread. I know lots of people who can make it, but each time I try, I find fault with it. I’ve no instincts about mixing, kneading, rising, or anything. I mean, my bread is edible, but it’s nothing to write home about.
So, in the interest of having fresh bread in my apartment, I bought a bread maker. The transaction was simple enough – I just had to:
- search for a good bread maker on sale
- purchase said bread maker
- once home, realize that the guide for the bread maker doesn’t include simple recipes
- search the interwebs for a basic white bread recipe
- fail to realize that the recipe is for a bigger bread maker until you see it mushroom over the top
- get your sister to send along her recipes for a bread maker
- realize that you don’t like the shape of the bread pan, so figure out the dough-making setting
- make more bread, because you live for trial and error
Now let’s go back to a few days ago. The conversation in my head went like this:
- 8am: I’m low on bread. I should make some when I get home from work
- 5pm: Why don’t I do a plaited* loaf? I bet there are instructions online!
- 8pm: Is it going to rise more? Will I be able to use this loaf for sandwiches? My whole reason for making bread was to make sandwiches.
- 10pm: This bread is Bake-Off worthy!
If you ask me, it turned out pretty darn good – which is amazing considering that I lost track of how much flour I was putting into the pan, and had to keep checking on it to make sure it wasn’t too doughy or too stiff**.
I went with 3 different recipes – one bread recipe, one instructional on plaiting, and one on baking the loaf. The bread recipe was a basic white that wasn’t intended for the bread-machine, but I layered the ingredients the proper way and it all worked out.
The plaiting instructions said that the dough should have time to rest as you’re plaiting it, but I didn’t want the strands to rise too much on their own, so I went faster than the recipe instructed. Trying to stretch the dough into strands was more difficult than I thought it would be – I was worried I’d tear the dough, but when I tried to roll it, it wouldn’t roll. Somehow I managed to get 4 strands each about 15″ long.
The baking recipe said to let the bread rise on a baking sheet, and it said nothing about covering it with plastic. My instincts said that should I cover it with plastic, but I held back, and it rose pretty well.
When I sliced into it I was worried that the bread would break apart, but it was only difficult for the first few cuts. The middle pieces were bound together better than the end pieces, so they’ve been easier to cut. It probably helps that the bread has been sitting for a few days.
- 1 1/8 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 1/2 tsp sugar
- 4g yeast
Once the dough setting is finished, take bread out and let rest for a few seconds. Then, separate the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll the parts out into strands (the longer the strand, the thinner the bread will be). Then plait the dough. The 4-strand recipe I used came from this website: How To Braid Bread. Try to make the plaits tight, so that the bread with bind together easier.
Once that was done, I switched to this recipe: 8-Strand Plaited Loaf. I let the loaf sit on a floured baking sheet for an hour to rise, then bushed with a beaten egg (if you want your loaf to look great and have a shiny brown top, don’t skip this step). Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Once removed from the oven, tap the bottom to see if it sounds hollow – if so, it’s baked! Go you!
*I’ve already been informed by a friend that in Canada we call it Braided Bread, but I’m learned about this on British TV, so I can’t stop calling it Plaited Bread.
**Next time I make bread I’m going to pre-measure my ingredients. It worked out this time, but next time I might not be so lucky…