As always, I twisted the ingredients for my convenience and availability of my cupboard stock.
Basically, I used olive oil and grated Italian hard cheese instead of sesame oil and poppy seeds. So, somehow, my version has an Italian touch. I used Grana Padano cheese. Simply that was in my fridge when I baked this loaf. I would say any hard cheese could work. Parmesan cheese would be the obvious option, so I put that down in my recipe. I normally prove twice when I prepare bread, but for this recipe, I only proved once following her technique.
I loved the crunchiness of the crust and the softness of the crumb. The aroma from the oven when I was baking this loaf was heavenly...
- 400g strong white bread flour
- 100g wholemeal bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 300ml warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil (to spread on the dough)
- 50g finely grated parmesan cheese (or any other hard cheese)
- Put the flours, salt, sugar and yeast into a large bowl, mix a bit and then make a hole in the middle. Add in 300ml of warm water. You may need more water to make a soft dough. Then mix everything together until combined.
- Then tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes (or five minutes if kneading in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook). To test and see if it has been kneaded enough, form the dough into a ball with a nice taut top. Dip your finger in the flour and then prod the side of the dough making an indent. The indent should spring back all the way and almost disappear if it is ready.
- Put some more flour on the surface and then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a long rectangle. If it is too springy to roll then cover it with a tea towel and leave for five minutes or so. That way the stretchy gluten strands in the bread can relax a bit which will make it easier to roll out.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough with the olive oil going right up to the edges and then sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly all over. Then cut the dough into six wide strips down the length.
- Keeping the strips lined up together, twist each one up like a twisted breadstick or cheese straw. Once they are all twisted, stack them into a bundle and pick them all up in one go. Then twist them together so you have a long thick twisted rope made up of the individual strands of bread. Try to twist evenly so the rope is an even thickness throughout.
- Then curve the bread into a ‘wreath’ shape and squish the ends together, sealing them with a bit of water. It does not have to be perfect, just as long as they are joined up.
- Place the wreath on a baking sheet. Oil some cling film and use it to cover the dough, oiled side down, so it is airtight but with enough room for the dough to rise a little.
- Leave to prove for about 30 minutes. To test if it is ready for the oven (because the bread will not have doubled in size but probably grown by about half again), dust your finger with some flour and then make an indent in the side of the bread. The indent should spring back about half way. If the indent just stays there and does not really move very much, then it needs more time.
- When ready, place in the preheated oven (200C/400F/Gas 6) to bake for 35 minutes.
- The loaf is cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped underneath. If not, then give it another five minutes or so in the oven. Once ready remove from the oven and serve.