This very fine ‘tear and share’ bread will only take 25 minutes of your ‘active’ time to make. The rest of the time you can be emailing, dancing and watching TV. I really love the flavours and the textures of the bread with its crispy crunch outside and the soft and chewy inside.
Put the flours, salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix a bit and then make a hole in the middle. Squidge in the honey and add in 350ml/12oz of warm water (from the tap). Then mix everything together until combined. Then, I like to get my hands in (I find it very therapeutic!) and squidge it all together, gathering up all those dry bits from the bottom of the bowl.
Then tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes (or five minutes if kneading in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook). To test and see if it has been kneaded enough, form the dough into a ball with a nice taut top. Dip your finger in the flour and then prod the side of the dough making an indent. The indent should spring back all the way and almost disappear if it is ready.
Put some more flour on the surface and then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into about a 40x24cm/15x9in rectangle. If it is too springy to roll then cover it with a tea towel and leave for five minutes or so. That way the stretchy gluten strands in the bread can relax a bit which will make it easier to roll out.
Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough with the sesame oil going right up to the edges and then sprinkle the poppy seeds evenly all over. Then cut the dough into six 4cm/1½in wide strips down the length.
Keeping the strips lined up together, twist each one up like a twisted breadstick or cheese straw. Once they are all twisted, stack them into a bundle and pick them all up in one go. Then twist them together so you have a long thick twisted rope made up of the individual strands of bread. Try to twist it evenly so the rope is an even thickness throughout.
Then curve the bread into a ‘wreath’ shape and squish the ends together, sealing them with a bit of water. It does not have to be perfect, just as long as they are joined up. When I make this bread there are usually lots of poppy seeds left on the surface, so I scoop those up and then scatter them over the bread, especially the bit where the join is, to cover it up a bit.
Place the wreath on a baking sheet. Oil some cling film (I find the spray oil is best for this) and use it to cover the dough, oiled side down, so it is airtight but with enough room for the dough to rise a little.
I usually put the oven to preheat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 now and place the dough on a chair near it, so it’s nice and warm. Leave to prove for about 30 minutes. To test if it is ready for the oven (because the bread will not have doubled in size but probably grown by about half again), dust your finger with some flour and then make an indent in the side of the bread. The indent should spring back about half way. If the indent just stays there and does not really move very much, then it needs more time.
When ready, place in the oven to bake for 35 minutes.
The loaf is cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped underneath. If not, then give it another five minutes or so in the oven.
Once ready remove from the oven and serve. I love the crispy crunch bits on the outside and the soft pillowy inside slathered in lots of butter.
Mix things up if you fancy a different filling - substitute the seeds for sundried tomatoes or tapenade. Or go really mad with some Nutella and toasted hazelnuts for a sweet chocolatey filling.