Thursday, July 7, 2011

Guyanese Plait Bread


Plait bread is a type of braided bread (plait, meaning to braid or interweave) and is the most popular and frequently consumed bread in Guyanese cuisine. It can be eaten for breakfast with various spreads, dipped in tea, toasted with butter, and completes a wonderful pepperpot meal on Christmas morning.  Many might compare this bread to challah bread because it looks similar in appearance, but the main difference is plait bread does not contain any eggs.  This was the bread I grew up eating instead of grocery store-bought bread (which I have no qualms about, by the way), so naturally after moving away from home and not having access to Little Guyana Bake Shop or Sybil's Bakery in Queens, I had to figure out a way to bake this on my own.  This recipe has been quite a while in the making and I am sure I'll continue to learn new methods and techniques over the years which I promise to share with you. 
Back in 2011, I posted a recipe for plait bread that I had been testing for a little while.  Many of you liked that recipe so you can still find it at the end of this post.  Back then it was my first time trying to bake this particular bread since my mom never baked it at home; we always bought it from local Guyanese bakeries so there was a lot I had to learn on my own.  Although the previous recipe I had posted wasn’t terrible, I still felt it needed some improvements so over the past two years I've continued to test my original recipe with minor changes here and there.  Here are my discoveries:

It might be more helpful to scroll through the recipe to get a visual, then come back to this part to understand the reasons for my tips.

About the appearance of the bread
  • Guyanese plait bread has no eggs in it, but may be used for flavor and to aid in rising
  • It is a three strand braid with one long log on top to help hold the seams together
  • Top of bread is completely smooth, no streaks
  • It is a simple white bread recipe; the making of it consists more of technique
  • Guyanese bread always has a belly in the middle and overall oval shape; the center is usually higher than the ends
About the ingredients/mix
  • Salt works against yeast; too much won't allow the yeast to help the bread rise properly
  • Unbleached flour is best for baking yeast breads
  • Powdered milk is a good substitute instead of liquid milk to add moisture to the bread
  • Vegetable or olive oil, vegetable shortening, lard, or unsalted softened/melted butter can be used as the fats in this bread.  I've found that using oil or shortening yields a better texture for my taste.
About the proofing/baking/structure
  • For the first proof, covering the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, not a towel, helps to seal in the humidity for the yeast to develop. It also keeps the dough from forming a crust, which can end up as lumps in the bread later on. 
  • Greasing/oiling the bowl that the dough will be put in is important because the oil helps the dough move upwards in the bowl as it rises.
  • Weighing the entire dough ball on a kitchen scale then dividing it by three tends to give a more even plait and even bread.  If one dough ball is larger than the other then you'll notice parts of the bread will be heavier or bigger than other parts.  If this doesn't bother you, then it doesn't bother me. If you don't have a scale, don't worry, just eyeball the sizes of the dough balls. 
  • By the end of the second proof, if the braid starts to pull away from seams then the bread has over proofed.  It will probably get a little flat while baking.
  • For the second proofing, I've found doing a cool rise instead of a warm one with steam works best, as too much heat kills the yeast and makes the bread fall flat when baking.  Although I've seen some of you have success with adding steaming water.
  • Rubbing butter or egg wash on bread loaf before baking will give the bread a hard crust and make it overly browned when baking.  If that's how you enjoy it, then go for it.
  • When the bread comes out of the oven, immediately rub butter and cover with plastic wrap and a towel for a few minutes, leaving it longer will make the crust soggy. 
Baking vessel
The size of the pan and material matters.  In the past I have used a baking/cookie sheet, but came to realize that a baking sheet forces the loaf to rise as a "free-form" loaf meaning it doesn't need support from the pan to rise. Because plait bread is soft, this type pan doesn't work, the bread tends to flatten out a bit.  Therefore, this bread needs to be baked in a pan that is smaller that can give it support on the sides.  However, if using a baking sheet, a few loaves have to be placed on the sheet to create dough tension and help each other "lift up."  For these reasons and because they conduct heat evenly, my suggestions are to use any of the below:
  • Standard size foil pan
  • Pyrex glass dish 9x13
  • Light colored aluminum pan 9x13


Start with 1 level tablespoon of active dry yeast.  Many recipes for plait bread call for "one packet" of yeast, but in the first two photos you can see that one packet is not equal to one tablespoon of yeast. 


Proof the yeast in warm water, if you don't have a thermometer, just make sure the water is luke warm.  Add 1 tsp sugar, give it a stir and let it bloom for 6-8 minutes.


This is how it will look after blooming.

In a mixing bowl, add sugar, flour, salt, and powdered milk.  Mix all ingredients by hand or with a whisk to get everything loosened up. If you are using butter or shortening, rub it into the flour mixture now until fine crumbs form then add yeast and water.  I used oil, so add the oil and yeast at the same time then add 1 cup of warm water a little at a time to knead by hand.  If you are using a stand mixer, add all the liquid ingredients at once and use the dough hook to knead.  

After kneading, place the dough ball in a well greased bowl, allow to rise until double in size, about 1 hour, this is known as the first proof.  When it is done proofing, it will look like this.

Gently poke it down to deflate.

Knead by hand for a couple of minutes or return to stand mixer to knead.

Cut a small piece of dough to be added on top of bread.  Then cut remainder of dough into 3 equal parts.

Roll each dough ball in between your hands, leaving the middle a little "fat." You can also hold the two ends and let the dough fall to the center to create this shape.  In my original post, I indicated the logs should be about 14in in length, but it actually works better when it is shorter, because the middle of the bread will need a belly giving the appearance of traditional plait bread.



Begin to braid.



Place bread in desired baking dish lined with parchment paper.

Allow to rise in a cool oven or microwave until double in size, about 45 min - 1 hr.  This is known as the second proof. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes.  After removing from oven, rub some melted butter on top.

And cover with plastic wrap...

And a towel and leave it for a few minutes. 

Then you can slice it up...

And toast it!



Guyanese Plait Bread
Yield: One large loaf


Ingredients

  • 1 level tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/4 cup flour (regular all-purpose or unbleached all-purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, softened butter, or vegetable shortening 
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Melted butter to brush on top after baking


Directions:
  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, add 1 tsp white sugar, stir and allow to bloom for 6-8 minutes. 
  2. In a mixing bowl, add flour, powdered milk, sugar, and salt, mix to combine.  If using butter or shortening, rub into flour until fine crumbs form.  Then add yeast and water.  If using oil, add oil and yeast.  Add 1 cup warm water a little at a time.  Knead by hand or place in stand mixer using dough hook.  Knead until a pliable dough ball forms. 
  3. Transfer dough ball to a well greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Place in microwave, oven or stove top, allow to double in size- first proof.  About 1 hour.
  4. Gently deflate dough ball, knead by hand again on a floured surface or return to stand mixer. 
  5. After second kneading, cut a small piece of dough to be added on top of bread.  Then cut remainder of dough into 3 equal parts. 
  6. Roll in between both hands to shape logs, leaving the middle "fat."  Logs should be about 10-11in in length.
  7. Braid dough logs and place in baking dish lined with parchment paper.  Allow to proof in a warm place for second time until doubled in size, about 45 minutes - 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 350 degrees, place dish in oven and bake for 22-25 minutes. 
  9. When bread is done, brush with melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and towel for no longer than a few minutes to keep crust soft.  
  10. After bread is cool, it can be stored in a zip-loc bag or wrapped tightly in foil paper.





Original recipe




Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp yeast (make sure to measure, b/c 1 tbsp is not equal to 1 packet)
  • 1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup - 1  cup water
  • Flour for kneading
  • Scale for weighing dough
Directions  
  1. Place yeast into 1/4 cup warm water to bloom. The warm water should be temped somewhere between 100 - 110 degrees, add 1 tsp of sugar. Let it bloom for about 6-8 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift 3 cups all-purpose flour. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 cup butter. Mix until you get coarse crumbs.
  3. Add liquid ingredients.  Add water yeast and egg to flour mixture and begin to combine. Knead it until it forms a tight dough ball.
  4. Set your oven temperature to warm for about 15 minutes and then turn it off to create an environment for the bread to proof or "rise". 
  5. Lightly spray another clean mixing bowl with oil or butter and transfer dough ball.  Cover mixing bowl with a towel and place into warm oven for 1 hour or until your dough ball doubles in size.
  6. After one hour of proofing the dough, transfer dough ball onto a floured surface and begin kneading.  
  7. After dough ball has become smooth and elastic, weigh entire dough ball on a food scale and divide your number by three. You will be breaking your dough ball into three pieces and they must all equal the same or very similar weight.  Be sure to tare your scale when you put the dough ball on it. 
  8. Roll or stretch dough ball to form 14in logs.  Braid logs and brush with butter.  Allow to double in size then bake at 325 for 25 minutes. 

23 comments:

  1. I love toasting my bread on the tawa, can't wait to make this and some pepperpot...yum!

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  2. Your blog is such a wonderful taste of home. We did not have a toaster growing up and also toasted our bread on the tawah too :)

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  3. I tried this today. The 1 1/2 cup water made it very runny. I measured everything correctly beforehand. Is the water measurement correct or is the 3 cups flour not enough? Anyway I just added more fllour and it came out pretty good, not a smooth crust but good. Thanks.

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  4. Hi Anonymous,

    Sorry to hear you had some trouble with this. The recipe says 1-1 1/2 cups water. I usually start with 1 cup water and then add more if I need it. Believe it or not sometimes you need more or less water depending on the type of flour you use. My mom uses flour from Costco and we always need to add more water! So that is why I indicated 1cup-1 1/2 cups, b/c it depends on the flour you are using. Bread recipes can get so tricky I tell you! Nonetheless, I am glad that it tasted good. I am working on trying to figure out how to get the crust smooth!

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  5. I love your website and all your food look so delicious. I baked this bread with King Arthur Bread Flour and Vegetable Shortening and no egg. And it was really good. I used 1 1/4 water. Because I am using a Kitchen Aid mixer to mix the bread, the water was sufficient. For so many years, I was look for the Guyana cook, finally decide to get the updated version. Which is selling on line at amazon. What's Cooking in Guyana. Not liking it too much. Which I had the old one. Like you, i decide to venture out of my comfort zone, and Guyanese and Trinidadian since my husband is from there.

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  6. Hi, thank you for this recipe... it came out really good, i measured everything as indicated and i was very please with my result, thanks again....
    Only one question, how do I get it soft, it came out heavy, but that wasn't going to stop me eating it, please help.

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    1. I have been making this recipe for a while now, with no egg, and the more I do it, the better I get, I found some tips to make the bread soft. I bake my bread in a foil pan, because a cookie sheet will sometimes burn the bottom. Spread parchment paper(not wax) in the bottom of a big foil pan, and plait the bread, leave it in that to rise and bake it. Also to get it soft, After plaiting, rise it in the oven with a pot of steaming water for 1 hour, then take out the pot, and rise another 30 minutes to 1 hour, then bake. When it comes out from the oven, cover it with a kitchen towel in the foil pan, the steam will soften the crust. Hope this helps

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  7. This recipe seems very accurate. I've tried about 6 other recipes, and none came out as good as the one you get from the West Indian Store. Most of the recipes I tried gave a similar method, and when it was finished baking, the top was hard, and the bread inside was dry and hard(similar to hard dough bread) I halved this recipe today just to try, and didn't put any egg and it used about 1/2 cup of water to knead into a dough. I plaited it and its rising again. One key I learned is not to rub butter on top of the bread before baking, because the butter does not brown the top as good. Also if you would like the bread to rise quicker, boil a pot of water, and put it in the oven with the bread. The steam helps speed up the rising. Thanks again for this recipe! Hopefully it comes out Indian store style

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  8. Thank you for all your great directions! I made this bread today before going to work. Wow, it is really good! I have tried a couple other recipes and not been happy with the end result. My husband is from Guyana/Trinidad and asks for plait bread all the time (I was born and raised in South Jersey, not a drop of Caribbean blood in me.) There aren't any good shops around us, we occationally get things from Sybil's but it is too far to go there often. I will absolutely be trying more recipes from your website! It will be so nice to be able to cook things myself.

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  9. Thanks so much for this great recipe! I just made the bread for the first time and it came out terrific! I gobbled up 3 slices then quickly put it in an oversized zip lock bag to keep it soft, wrapped in paper towels. Thanks for the pics, details and steps. It tasted wonderful- just like in Guyana. I will share half with my Mom.

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  10. Awesome, I respect your dedication and look forward to adding your recipe to my collection. The best Guyanese plait bread, tennis rolls and pastries are at Pam's Bakery at the corner of church and Schenectady avenue in Brooklyn, NY. The secret to the crust is to take a pastry brush and brush on melted butter as soon as you remove the bread from the oven.

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  11. Thank you for taking the time to post such great recipes. As a Guyanese who has been away from home for a long,long time but not long enough to forget our foods I do appreciate it. I did try this bread recipe a few months ago and it was great, just as great as your Salara and Cheese Rolls and bakes... I can go on and on :)
    I have started a recipe portfolio for my mommy for Christmas from your blog.
    I wanted to ask if you know or have ever done Tennis rolls? As a child growing up in Campbellville I loved the bakery which sold fresh tennis rolls and coconut rolls. If you did or have the tennis roll recipe that would be awesome.
    Happy baking,
    Tee

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  12. Thank you for this recipe. I tried this bread today and it came out wonderful. The only change I made, was brushing the butter onto the top of the bread after it was done baking, the result was a soft crust.My husband and kids loved it and requested more.

    Happy Holiday
    Dia

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  13. Made this recipe Xmas Eve and had it with pepperpot on Xmas morning. It was EXCELLENT. My husband and sons kept saying how soft and yummy it was. Thank you for another great recipe.

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  14. I tried this recipe for the first time and it came out great. I was reminded of my Guyanese bread. Simply amazing. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

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  15. I definitely love this recipe. I've had some great success with it, however it's still not the same :( the video posted on YouTube seems to look more like what you'll find at the bakery. What is the method and recipe used there, because it's completely different than this one, if you don't mind sharing?

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  16. I made this today in the shape of rolls with half wholewheat and half all purpose and instant yeast as it was all i had...wasn't too bad...I love love your recipes..thank you

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  17. try this recipe numerous times, and now I'm a pro lol. I make bread every weekend now for my girls!!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My kids and hubby compliments me all the time!!! btw I do use the egg yolk to give the bread some color, works perfect.

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  18. You do an outstanding job of explaining, describing and illustrating your recipes. One can see that you take the time and effort to do a commendable job. You should be applauded, congratulated and recognized for your sterling contribution to the traditions of Guyanese culinary arts!

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  19. Thank you for all your recipes! My husband is Guyanese and my father in law came to visit. I decided to impress them both by making this bread.it was a surprise visit so there was no time for me to practice this first. When it came out the oven and I brushed it with butter they came to look before I covered it and they looked ready to eat it right then! We had bread with soup that evening ... but the next day when I woke up my father in law said, "I ate more bread, girl THAT BREAD IS GOOD!" I was so happy I almost cried! Thank you very much! Going to do the chicken curry recipe tonight!

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  20. I love the Anonymous people

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  21. I love the Anonymous people

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  22. Hello
    I cant really find powder milk here, so I was wondering how much liquid milk can I substitute?

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