Fanny pays particular attention to plaits. To illustrate her fondness for them she dedicates several pages and many pic-strips to showing us how to plait successfully. Or rather Johnnie does. He seems to do most of the pic-strip demonstrations. Presumably Fanny is off practising her most feminine facial expressions. She's keen however that we learn two types of plaits, a three-strand and a five-strand version. Fanny says to use any of her breads for plaits, and if you are feeling particularly adventurous why not 'knit' strands of each together? Maybe it's because it's midweek, but I'm not really feeling THAT adventurous, so I plump for Brown.
To 'score' brown bread flour, and indeed Rye flour and Cracked Wheat, luckily there isn't any localised baker flirting involved - it's a simple trip to the 'nearest' health food store. For me, that's a welcome skip along to Real Foods. They've got loads of different flours and also sell flour 'loose' which is great if you only want to try a small amount for a recipe. I snap up a packet of Marriage's Strong Wholemeal Flour though as I know I'll use it a lot. Fanny looks disdainfully at the 'flimsy paper packets' that flour comes in though. She insists that we all sift them immediately, and store them 'correctly' in flour bins or even plastic 'burper' boxes at home. Presumably that's Tupperware to you and I. I think I'll be calling them Burper Boxes from now on though.
So, same technique as before, but most of the white flour is replaced with brown. Other additions are some lard rubbed in. Time for trusty Trex for me. The lovely fresh yeast is liquified in brown sugar this time, and Fanny adds Treacle to the milk and water mix. My store cupboard is out of treacle, but luckily my Aunt gave me some Jersey Black Butter when she was over recently, which is a great substitute. Well, I hope so anyway!
Once the dough has been mixed in two stages and kneaded for 10 minutes, until it's 'as lively as a bag of fleas', it's time to plait! I've made plaited loaves before, but Fanny does it differently. She rolls out her dough into a flat rectangle, cuts it into either three or five strands leaving an uncut end holding it all together. Johnnie uses a professional pastry cooks scraper for his, but Fanny says an ordinary sharp knife does very well. I have a professional scraper. Get me. She numbers the three plait stands as left to right '1, 3 and 2' for some reason. The sequence to plait is 1 over 3, 2 over 3 and repeat. Fanny clarifies incase the numbering is confusing. It's left over centre, right over centre. The flatness of the strands looks strange, but my finished plaits look like Fannys. Or like the ones in the pic-strip. For the five plait strand the numbering goes left to right '1, 2, 3, 4 and 5' (nothing is straightforward with Fanny) and the sequence is 2 over 3, 5 over 2, 1 over 3 and repeat. It looks just like the three strand version, only a little tighter, with the ends tucked in neatly. Once baked (and egg washed after 10 minutes as before) they look even more similar. I'm struggling to tell them apart really. They remain flatter than I expected, but the brown loaf is tasty and light. Can you tell which is which?
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