This is much easier than you think, looks impressive, and tastes even better.
You will need
- 500g strong white flour
- 7g salt
- 10g quick yeast
- 25ml olive oil plus a little to stop it sticking to the bowl
- 300ml (approx) water
Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl, making sure the salt and yeast are not touching, and add the oil and water.
Mix together and turn out onto a work surface to knead, this will take 7 to 10 minutes until the dough is stretchy and smooth.
Place the kneaded dough into the bowl, which has been oiled with a little olive oil, and cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rise.
The dough needs to at least double in size and be full of air bubbles, this can take anything between an hour and three hours depending on the room temperature, my advice is to check it every hour.
Once it has risen sufficiently at this stage you can now shape, final prove and bake but I like to leave it to rise for a second time, this improves the texture and taste of the loaf considerably. If you want to do this turn out the dough and push out the air with your fingers then fold it from the outside into the middle and place it back in the bowl, rounded side up, and cover again. Check every half an hour until you are happy it has doubled in size again.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Push out the air with your fingers. Cut into three equal pieces and roll into long sausage shapes, they need to be a little longer than the final loaf.
Using a lined baking sheet start at the middle by placing one sausage on top of the other (see photo), plait from the middle down (basically taking the outside sausage in turn and bring it into the middle). Then work on the other side, this will need to be plaited under (you will see what I mean, if you start to plait over it will not work). Lightly squeeze the very ends together.
Leave to rise, this should take between 15 and 20 minutes.
Meanwhile set your oven to 2200C.
Once your plait has risen place it in the oven. After 10 minutes turn the temperature down to 2000C for another 25 minutes.
Keep an eye on it, after 10 minutes if it seem to be browning too much on one side it is OK to open the oven and turn it around.
Once baked cool on a cooling rack.