By Mr Bakeful Play
We're still immersed in full on princess-play here at Bakeful Play HQ, so when asked if she wanted to make a plaited loaf with daddy it wasn't long until the request for Rapunzel bread was made. Mr Bakeful play manfully stepped up to the plate.
I've said before that I think bread gets a bad rep for being complicated and unsuitable for Smalls. I actually think it's one of the easiest things we do. It's time consuming, sure it is, but there a ways to stagger the stages so that small bakers don't get too frustrated by the wait to prove and precisely because of the several stages involved, bread is a great activity for a rainy day when you're stuck inside and need something that can give you intervals of interaction and peace. Bread dough is also probably the cleanest bake we make. Once the dough is formed it is relatively clean to play with and just irresistible to little hands.
500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action yeast
40g butter, softened
150ml whole milk
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1. Add flour, yeast, salt and butter to a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water and milk by turns. As you mix it all together a dough will start to form, which should be tacky not sticky. If your little one gets over excited with the water jug (although baby bottle are much easier to tip and pour) and accidentally makes soup, don't panic. Simply add more flour until it fixes itself.
2. Knead the dough by stretching and folding it in the bowl. This avoid having to flour a worktop and therefore saves on the mess. Do it until everyone is bored. Bread dough has an irresistible texture for smalls. Let them enjoy poking, prodding and squishing it. They can't do it any harm at this stage and they're probably still in the baking zone. Fully committed to its excitements. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic bag and leave to prove (double in size) for about an hour. If you have a particularly cold kitchen, pop it in a warmer room or just prove it for longer.
The first two steps could be done in advance of baking to reduce the number of steps in the bake. This dough will also prove nicely in the fridge overnight, meaning little bakers with shorter attention spans can enjoy the fun shaping stage of the bake and the wait time between making and eating is reduced.
3. Your nice bouncy dough is now ready for shaping. Divide it into three. A dough scraper is the easiest implement for this, but you can do it with a knife of course. You are going to roll your dough into three long sausages. This isn't quite as easy as it sounds and your little ones will probably need help. Apply pressure to the centre of the roll and work outwards. If the children struggle there's no need to draw attention to it, just ask them to swap pieces with you and finish theirs whilst they 'perfect' yours.
4. To plait the loaf, lay the three long strands on a long piece of greaseproof paper, joining the strands at one end bu simply squidding them together. Then methodically lay left and right strands over the central one until a full plait is formed. If you've gone for a serious Rapunzel plait like us, then you may well have to cut your plait in half at this stage so it will fit in your oven. Cover loosely once more and leave for an hour to rise again.
5. Brush the plaits all over with a lightly beaten egg and then bake at 200° for 3-40mins. When ready it will be a shiny, golden colour and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Allow to cool completely (preferably on a wire rack) before eating. If you wish to make a Rapunzel display, then tie a ribbon in the middle of the two halves to give the illusion of one long Rapunzel 'do.'
Why not enjoy some Rapunzel play during the proving and / or baking of the bread. We have had a whole half term's worth of fun from creating the top of Rapunzel's tower from a nice big box that came with some new furniture last weekend.