Braided Bread inspired by The Great British Bake Off

Bread Braiding from Lucy Lean on Vimeo.

We are obsessed with The Great British Bake Off in our house – every week we have been glued to each episode and watched as the contestants work through their signature dishes, technical challenges and then the showstoppers. When cooking, Minty and Rémy often wonder what Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would think of their efforts. On a recent trip to a restaurant we ate apple strudel and both children agreed that with it’s soggy bottom and a lot less than flaky crust neither Paul nor Mary would have rated it very highly.

Rémy even made the final out of Lego – with Mel and Sue at the front and finalists John, James (with reddish hair and glasses in the middle) and Brendan (with rather too much hair) ready to “Bake!” He asked if I could send a photo of it to Mary Berry so if anyone reading this is beasties with the Queen of puddings herself please make a little seven year old v happy and forward it to her!

For the bread episode Paul Hollywood chose a plaited loaf for the technical challenge because he said that it would be tough even for a professional baker and so we decided to give this recipe for an 8 string loaf a try at home. It quickly became the fairy tale session of bread making – because not only is this the Rapunzel of bread with all that braiding but we made loaves in all sizes prefect for Goldilocks and her three bears.

Here are two tips from Hollywood when making up the dough:
1. Keep the salt and the yeast apart in the bowl on top of the flour – the salt can ‘kill’ the yeast.
2. Use olive oil instead of flour on the counter top when you are kneading the dough.

I was really grateful I had watched Hollywood demonstrate the technique on the subsequent Masterclass episodes (Paul makes the plaited loaf about 15 minutes in to the episode) – not only does he make sense of this challenging recipe, he also clearly demonstrated the kneading, rolling out and then plaiting – or as Americans would say braiding – of the dough. We kept practicing with the left over dough – making smaller and smaller strands which resulted in smaller and smaller loaves.

Roll out the 8 strands of dough. Gather them at the top and tack to the countertop to form an octopus, each strand is assigned a number 1 – 8.

Step 1 – Place strand 8 under strand 7 and then over 1. Note you only do this step once.

Every time you complete a step you renumber the strands back to 1 – 8. So in the picture above 8 becomes 1, 1 becomes 2 and 7 would now be 8.

Step 2 – Place strand 2 under 3, then over strand 8.

Renumber the strands back to 1 – 8 (in the picture above 3 becomes 2, 8 is now 7 and 2 becomes 8 above).

Step 3 – Place Strand 1 over strand 4.

Renumber the strands back to 1 – 8 (in the picture about 4 becomes 3, 1 becomes 4).

Step 4 Place strand 7 under 6 then over strand 1.

Renumber the strands back to 1 – 8 (in the picture above 7 becomes 1, 1 becomes 2 and 6 is now 7).

Step 5 Place strand 8 over strand 5.

Repeat from step 2 until all the strands are braided.

2 under 3, then over 8.
1 over 4.
7 under 6 then over 1.
8 over 5.
2 under 3, then over 8.
1 over 4.
7 under 6 then over 1.
8 over 5.
2 under 3, then over 8.
1 over 4.
7 under 6 then over 1.
etc. etc.

It really takes a little getting used to but once you’ve done it a couple of times and if you stick to the formula it really is very easy.

Once the plait was formed Hollywood squeezed off both ends to remove the excess dough and then tucked them under neatly.

Set the braided loaf on a baking sheet and leave to rise for about an hour, until it was doubled in size. Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Brush the loaf with a mixture of egg and a pinch of salt.

We left some of our bread plain, some we sprinkled with pearl sugar and the dolly bread we sprinkled with poppy seeds (sesame seeds would be good too). Bake for around 20 minutes (depending on size – smaller loaves will obviously cook much faster than a large loaf). The loaf is ready when golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Cool on a wire rack.

The pearl sugar topped mini loaves were the perfect breakfast treat with some raspberry jam – almost like eating a doughnut for breakfast, and there’s nothing wrong with that in my book!

Recipe for an eight strand plaited loaf from Paul Hollywood for the BBC TV series The Great British Bake Off.


  1. you know i’ve always avoided this simply because of the braid part.
    excellent tutorial
    many thanks!
    I might share this for my “friday links” roundup. OK with you?
    Might steal a photo too.

  2. Everything about this is a blast ~ the bread, family bonding time & that Lego creation!

  3. What a gorgeous looking bread. I love that your kids are so into it and participate with great pride! Love this!

  4. We have been stir crazy for a week post-Sandy. I shoulda looked at this sooner and I would have been braiding bread and hair just as you teach!

  5. Yum! Can you please move to Brooklyn and be my fairy god mother?!