Poppy Seed Bread

Poppy Seed Bread is a delicious white milky bread. Traditionally the dough is braided before cooking, but it may be shaped into rounds or baked in a loaf tin.

2- ; oz. yeast

2 teaspoon sugar

16 fl. oz. lukewarm milk

2 lb. flour

2 teaspoons salt

4 oz. plus

1 teaspoon butter egg, lightly beaten with

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoons poppy seeds

Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and mash in the sugar with a kitchen fork. Add 2 fluid ounces of milk and cream the milk and yeast together. Set the bowl aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast mixture is puffed up and frothy.

Sift the flour and salt into a warmed, large mixing bowl. Add the 4 ounces of butter, and, using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and remaining milk. Using your fingers or a spatula, gradually draw the flour mixture into the liquids. Continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board or marble slab and knead it for 10 minutes, rcflouring the surface if the dough becomes sticky. The dough should be elastic and smooth.

Rinse, thoroughly dry and lightly grease the large mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set it in a warm, draught-free place. Leave it for 1 to U hours or until the dough has risen and has almost doubled in bulk.

Turn the risen dough out of the bowl on to a floured surface and knead it for about 8 minutes.

Using the remaining teaspoon of butler, grease a large baking sheet. Roll the dough out into a large oblong. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough, lengthways, into three equal strips, leaving the dough joined at one end. Braid the dough, then moisten the ends with water and press them together firmly. Carefully lift the dough braid on to the prepared baking sheet and return it to a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the dough has almost doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to hot 425′ F (Gas Mark 7, 220°C). Using a pastry brush, brush the dough with the egg and milk mixture and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.

Place the baking sheet in the centre of the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, tip the loaf off the baking sheet and rap the underside with your knuckles. If the bread sounds hollow, like a drum, it is cooked. If it does not sound hollow, reduce the oven temperature to warm 325°F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C), return the loaf to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack and serve.

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