A lot of folks in lock-down have been baking bread, and our local supermarket has been consistently cleared of yeast. We had a couple of sachets and some bread flour in reserve at home from our irregular pizza making, so I could go right ahead with my own autumn plan for sweet yoghurt plait bread.
This is yet another recipe from the Lab Farewell Cookbook, and it comes from my long-time colleague Victoria. The bread is really a lightly sweet bun, spiced with cinnamon, studded with dried figs and smothered in a thick lemon icing. With all the proving and plaiting it's a solid afternoon's work, but I was ready for it, even pulling out the heavy old mixmaster with the dough hook.
I'm not sure that I've ever plaited dough before, but it was easier than I expected! Any imperfections are slightly magnified during proving, then hidden again by icing and slicing. The one slight alteration I made was to use a bit less lemon juice when icing the second loaf - I love the tanginess, but the extra liquid means that most of the icing runs off the bun.
The loaves are sticky stunners, both whole and sliced. I made sure to show off a piece in my workplace's weekly morning tea skype session.
Sweet yoghurt plait bread
(a recipe shared by Victoria in the Lab Farewell Cookbook,
where it's credited to Jane Lawson's Spice Market)
650g white bread flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons (9g) instant dried yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
60g unsalted butter, chopped and at room temperature
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons milk
3 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
Set up an electric mixer with a bowl and dough hook, or a large bowl (with a wooden spoon and strong arms at the ready!). Stir together 600g of the flour with the cinnamon, yeast and salt.
Very gently heat the milk in a small saucepan to just barely more than lukewarm. Take it off the heat, then whisk in the eggs, yoghurt and honey. Pour this mixture into the flour bowl. If you're using a stand mixer, mix for 3 minutes at the lowest speed. Add the butter and figs, and mix for a further 10 minutes at medium speed, until you have a smooth and elastic dough (mine was very sticky, and I added a bit more flour). If you're mixing by hand, work through the ingredients in the same order and turn the dough onto a clean surface and knead it for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl and drop the dough into it, tossing it around to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place to rise for 1.5-2 hours, or until it has doubled in volume. Gently punch the dough and turn the dough onto a clean, floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal-sized portions, and roll each one into a length of about 30cm. Plait together three lengths at a time to form two loaves, and tuck the ends underneath. Place the loaves on lightly greased baking trays, cover them with damp cloths, and allow them to rise for a further 30 minutes. Use this time to preheat an oven to 220°C.
Make the glaze by whisking together the egg and milk in a mug; brush it over the tops of the loaves. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for 20 minutes more. The bread should be golden on top. Allow the loaves to cool.
When the loaves are cool, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice to form the icing. Drizzle it over the loaves and allow it to set before slicing and serving.