Those 8 strand bread plaits they do on 'The Great British Bake Off' always look so impressive. So I knew I was going to try them. The plait means more crust which is always a good thing. The most impressive crust I've accomplished has always been with no knead bread as you can read in this post. One of the comments there said my dough was a bit too slack, even for no knead. A little experiment seemed in order. Make a slightly dryer no knead dough and make a plait with it. However no knead bread works so well because it is very wet. This is what creates those magnificent holes and crackly crust. It is also why the yeast can do the kneading for you. So can I actually get a workable dough, strong enough to braid, using the no knead method? Yes.. I most certainly can.
- 600 g flour
- 9 g salt
- 7 g yeast
- 1 and a half cup water
- 1 egg (for the wash)
Add all the dry ingredients together and slowly add the water bit by bit. I added water until there was no dry flour left. The dough is still tacky and a bit wet but nothing near 'normal' no knead dough. Cover it in clingfilm and let the yeast do its business overnight.
The dough has risen incredibly well and even though it is not as wet the yeasts has done its business and you can see all the stringy gluten goodness. Turn out on a lightly floured work surface and make a ball. Divide this into 8 even pieces.
I found it was easier to slowly pull these pieces into strings instead of rolling them. Time for braiding.
I used Mr Hollywood's method from the BBC website:
For the following braiding sequence, number the strands of dough from 1-8 from left to right. Every time you move any strand it will take the new number of its position in the row. Step 1: place 8 under 7 and over 1 Step 2: place 8 over 5 Step 3: place 2 under 3 and over 8 Step 4: place 1 over 4 Step 5: place 7 under 6 and over 1 Repeats step 2-5, until all the dough is braided.
Not as difficult as I thought it would be. Though my outer strings were slightly smaller which made it difficult in the end. Cut of the ends and tuck under.
Proof for another hour while the oven and the Dutch oven heat up (220c).
Brush the bread with egg wash before putting it in the oven for an extra golden shine. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on the Dutch oven and another 30/40 without the lid. Let it cool on a baking rack until it has stopped making a crackling sound.
As you can see the crust is gorgeously golden and every bit as good as your regular no knead crust. The crumb is tighter and there are no big holes in there. I'm guessing that is because there is less water. Still there is something to be said for bread that doesn't leak your jam all over the place. I declare this experiment a success.