ESB Bake Off : Bread Week : Poppy Bread Plaits

Updated: Jan 31

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to my blog and the third instalment of my ESB Bake Off blog series. If you want to catch up with the series so far, you can read the posts here!

In today’s post, my next signature challenge inspired by series 1 of the Great British Bake Off is a favourite bake of mine to make – Bread.

For Bread Week, I have chosen to bake my tried and tested recipe for Poppy Seed Plaited Loaves. Inspired by the bread we used to buy at the village shop on the way back from school, they have become a firm family favourite over the 4 years since I first made them for my YouTube series, ESB Monthly Bake. Over that time, I have learnt to perfect the method, learning what works and what doesn’t and I want to share my tips with you.

The recipe is adapted from a basic white loaf and has very few ingredients. However, good quality flour does make the difference as it makes the bread as good as it can be. My preferred topping is poppy seeds but I have made it with sesame seeds and it was just as delicious. It is the perfect lunch companion to a hearty bowl of homemade soup and a piece of brie and feels like a celebration whenever I make it!

To accompany the recipe, here is a song from Stephen Schwartz’s musical, A Baker’s Wife, Chanson, that I sang at my stage debut at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. Set in a bakery, it is the perfect song to put us in the mood for baking.

Without further ado, here is the recipe for Poppy Seed Plaits…


Makes 2 loaves


500g Strong White Bread Flour

7g Easy Bake Yeast

1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 1/2 tsp. caster sugar

300ml lukewarm water

25g butter, softened

An egg, beaten

Olive Oil, to grease the bowl

2 tbsp. poppy seeds


A large mixing bowl

A wooden spoon

A measuring jug

A tea towel or cling film

A sharp knife

A baking tray

Greaseproof paper

A pastry brush

A wire rack


1. Start by making the dough. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a big mixing bowl. Then add the yeast. (ESB Top Tip : Don’t mix the yeast with the salt and sugar until you mix the other dry ingredients together as the salt can stop the yeast working as well as it should.) Using your fingertips, rub the soft butter into the dry ingredients until it has disappeared. (ESB Top Tip : Blast the butter in the microwave for 10 seconds so it is the right consistency and you don’t have to wait for it to soften at room temperature.) Next, mix in the warm water with a wooden spoon till it all comes together as a ball of dough. (ESB Top Tip : Add all the water even if it seems too much as it will make the finished bread softer.)

2. Tip the dough on to a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes till it is soft, smooth and springy. You know when you have kneaded enough when you poke a floured finger into the dough and it springs back immediately. (ESB Top Tip : Try not to add too much extra flour as it will change the texture of the finished bread.)

3. Lightly grease the mixing bowl with a dash of oil in a piece of kitchen roll or on your hands. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it over to coat in oil so it doesn’t dry out on top while it proves. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (ESB Top Tip : You can use cling film if you prefer as it makes the bowl air tight and makes the dough prove faster.)

4. When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back by gently kneading just 5 times to get the air out. Then, separate the dough into two – to make two loaves. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take one half and flatten into a rough rectangle. Use the sharp knife and make 3 cuts lengthways to about an inch from the top. Plait the bread by bringing the right strand over the middle strand and then the left strand over the middle, repeating till you have used all the dough. Tuck the ends under and place on the baking tray and repeat with the other half of the dough. (ESB Top Tip : I know this can sounds complicated so here is the Father Dominic’s tutorial I first watched which made it work for me! )

5. Cover the tray again with a tea towel and leave to prove until doubled in size again (about 30 minutes.) While it’s proving, preheat the oven to 200’C.

6. When the second prove time is up, gently brush each loaf with beaten egg to coat and then sprinkle over poppy seeds in a single layer to cover the outside. Remember that the dough is quite delicate as it has risen so try not to knock the air out of it!

7. Put the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. A good way to check if a loaf is cooked is to pick it up with an oven glove and check if the bottom is brown and if it is, it is perfect!

8. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes and enjoy with homemade soup and butter.

Thank you for popping by my blog today. I hope you enjoyed the Poppy Seed Plaits recipe I shared with you. I would love it if you would like to join me in baking up some new delights, so if you decide to bake any of my selection, please do tag me in your pictures on Instagram @EnglishSingingB and use the hashtag #esbbakeoff.

I hope you can join me for my next instalment of ESB Bake Off but until then,

Happy Tuneful Baking!

English Singing Baker x

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