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How to Make a Bread Plait

Whether you consider yourself a baking maestro or more of an amateur in the kitchen, there’s one thing we all know for certain. Making a bread plait is a little tricky. A plaited loaf consists of long, thick bread dough strands, braided together prior to baking. But oh no – it doesn’t end there! You could plait three strands, five strands, or even eight strands! Tempted? Look below to find out how to make each.

Ingredients:

  • 500g of Strong Bread Flour
    (plus extra for dusting)
  • 340ml of Water
  • 10g of Salt (plus a pinch extra)
  • 7g of Fast-Action Yeast
  • 1 Egg (for glazing)
  • 1 ½ tbsp of Olive Oil
  • Sunflower Oil (for greasing)

Equipment:

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Clean Tea Towel or Clingfilm
  • Dough Scraper or Knife
  • Baking Tray
  • Pastry Brush

METHOD 1: Eight-Strand Plaited Loaf

  1. Put your flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast to one side of the flour, add the salt to the other side of the flour, and then combine until mixed evenly.
  2. Add the olive oil and ¾ of your water to the bowl, mixing it all together using your hands. Once combined, add the rest of the water and mix again.
  3. Empty the dough onto your lightly-floured work surface and knead it for around 10 minutes, until it’s nice and stretchy.
  4. Grease a medium-sized mixing bowl with a little sunflower oil, and then put your dough into it. Cover with clingfilm or a clean tea towel and leave it to prove in an airing cupboard or warm room for roughly an hour. Here, the dough should double in size.
  5. Lightly dust your work surface again, empty the risen dough onto it, knead it again, and then roll it all into a ball-shape.
  6. Using a dough scraper (or knife, if you don’t have one) portion your dough into eight equal pieces, and then roll each piece into a 40cm strand.
  7. Fan out the strands from a central point, spreading them out like the tentacles of an octopus. Press down on the central point (i.e. the end of each piece) to stick it to the table.
  8. Next comes the braiding. Here, you should follow a specific braiding sequence to achieve the desired results. From left to right, number your strands from 1 to 8. For ease of remembering, every time you move a strand, its number will change in accordance to where it’s now placed. For example, if you move strand number 8 so that it now sits in 6th position, it’ll now become strand number 6 – so strand number 7 will be the new strand 8. The eight-strand braiding sequence is as follows:
    1. Move strand 8 underneath strand 7, and then put it over strand 1.
    2. Move strand 8 over strand 5.
    3. Move strand 2 underneath strand 3, and then put it over strand 8.
    4. Move strand 1 over strand 4.
    5. Move strand 7 underneath strand 6, and then put it over strand 1.
    6. Repeat steps 2 to 5 until all the strands are completely braided.
  9. At each end of the loaf, tuck in the straggly bits of dough to create a neat finish.
  10. Lightly flour a baking tray, put your dough plait onto it, and then leave it to prove again to rise further. It should be left for a further hour.
  11. Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan or gas mark 6) and remove your loaf from where it’s proving. Lightly beat an egg with a pinch of salt, and then brush the loaf with the wash to create a glazed effect. Finally, place it in the oven to bake for between 20 and 25 minutes. Once baked, remove from the oven – you should now have a perfectly plaited baked loaf!

METHOD 2: Five-Strand Plaited Loaf

  1. Follow steps 1 - 5 of method 1. The preparation of your dough remains the same; the only thing that changes here is way you plait your loaf.
  2. Cut your dough into five even pieces, and then roll them into long, even strands. View Diagram.
  3. Place one end of all of the strands at a centre point at the top of your work surface. Position them so that three strands fan out to the right and two strands fan out to the left. View Diagram.
  4. Take the furthest strand on the right (the third one) and cross it over the two strands next to it, so that it’s lying right next to the strands on the left. View Diagram.
  5. The left side now has three strands, while the right side has two. Take the furthest strand on the left (the third one) and cross it over the two strands next to it, so that it’s lying right next to the strands on the right. The right side will now have three strands, while the left has two. View Diagram.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’ve plaited the entire loaf. Pinch the ends and tuck them under the loaf to neaten it up. Make sure you neaten the edges on the other end of the loaf, too. View Diagram.
  7. Follow steps 10 and 11 of method 1 to complete your bake.

METHOD 3: Three-Strand Plaited Loaf

  1. Follow steps 1 - 5 of method 1. The only difference is the way you plait the loaf.
  2. Cut and portion your dough into three pieces, and then roll them into long, thick strands. View Diagram.
  3. Position one end of the strands at a centre point, fanning them out. Make sure one strand lies in the centre, one strand comes out to the left, and one strand comes out to the right. View Diagram.
  4. Take the left strand and move it over the centre strand. View Diagram.
  5. Take the right strand and move it over the centre strand, on top of the left strand. View Diagram.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’ve plaited the entire loaf, and then tuck in the ends to neaten it up. View Diagram.
  7. Follow steps 10 - 11 in method 1 to finish your bake.