Richard Bertinet's Poppy seed stars & sesame plaits
Master baker Richard Bertinet on how to make a simple brown bread dough, for pretty poppy seed stars and sesame plaits.
Recipe - Makes: 12 poppy seed stars or 12 sesame seed plaits
1tsp Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast
800g essential Waitrose Strong Brown Bread Flour
200g essential Waitrose Strong White Bread Flour
700g water (or 700ml – you can use a measuring jug but weighing is more accurate)
Poppy seeds (if making the poppy seed stars)
Sesame seeds (if making the sesame plaits)
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C, or as high as your oven will go.
2. Mix the yeast into the flour well. Add the salt and water. Work the dough with a plastic scraper or spatula of some kind for 2–3 minutes, until the dough starts to form.
3. Lift the dough onto your work surface. Even though the dough will feel quite soft and moist (and look like thick, sticky porridge) do not add any flour or oil to the work surface. Scrape the dough into as small a ball as possible.
4. Begin to work the dough. The idea is to stretch it and get as much air into it as possible. Forget the way you have probably been taught to knead the dough, by pummelling it with the heel of your hands and rotating it. The way to work it is to slide your fingers underneath it like a pair of forks, with your thumbs on top, swing it upwards then slap it back down, away from you, onto your work surface.
5. Stretch the back of the dough towards you, then lift it back over itself in an arc (to trap the air), still stretching it forward and sideways and tucking it in around the edges. Do this 5 times then scrape the dough back into as small a ball as possible and repeat as necessary. Remember to use the tips of your fingers, not your whole hands.
6. As you work the dough it will start to come together and feel alive and elastic in your hands. Keep on working it until it comes cleanly away from the work surface, begins to look silky and feels smooth, firm-but-wobbly and responsive.
7. Lightly flour the work surface, place the smooth side of the dough on the flour and form the dough into a ball by folding each edge in turn into the centre. Place the dough into a mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Rest for at least 1 hour in a draught-free place in your kitchen.
For the poppy seed stars:
1. Turn out the dough, then divide it into 12 pieces (about 80g each) and roll them into balls, cover with a tea towel and rest for 5 minutes.
2. Scatter the poppy seeds on a plate and fill a shallow bowl with water.
3. Flatten one of the rolls with the palm of your hand, dip the top into the water, then immediately into the seeds and press them in with your hand. Place on your lightly floured work surface, seed-side-up, and flatten a little with your hand.
4. Using the short end of a clean credit card make a diagonal cut across the centre of the dough – the cut shouldn’t reach the edges of the roll but should go all the way through it to the work surface. Then make two other diagonal cuts that intersect the first one equally, so that the three cuts form a star shape. Carefully push the roll from underneath with your fingertips, and turn it inside out, so that the points of the star push upwards and outwards, resulting in the points being on the outside.
5. Place the stars on a baking tray, seed-side-up, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for about 45 minutes until the stars have nearly doubled in volume.
6. Put them in the preheated oven, mist the inside with water spray, and bake them for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
For the sesame plaits:
1. Divide the rested dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Cover with a tea towel and rest for 5 minutes.
2. Take one of the balls and flatten it to form a disc. Fold in two sides to form a rough rectangle then turn over so the folds face down. Using a sharp knife, make 2 parallel cuts through the dough from one end to just short of the other end. You should end up with 3 strands joined together at one end by a strip of dough.
3. Plait the strands by passing each one of the outer strands over the middle one in turn. Repeat until you reach the ends and seal with a drop of water. Roll both ends of the plait until they are pointed. Repeat with the other 11 balls.
4. Place the sesame seeds on a plate. Brush the top of the plaits with a little water and dip them into the seeds. Place the plaits on a baking tray and prove in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until they have nearly doubled in volume. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
This recipe is adapted from Dough by Richard Bertinet, photographs by Jean Cazals (Kyle Books, 2005).