Plait bread is a type of braided bread (plait, meaning to braid or interweave) and is the most popular bread in Guyanese cuisine. It is enjoyed for breakfast with various spreads, dipped in tea, toasted on a tawa 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 usually contain any eggs.
This was the bread I grew up eating instead of grocery store shelf bread, 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.
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 simple white bread recipe; the making of it consists more of technique
- It has an overall oval shape
About the ingredients/mix
- Salt works against yeast; too much won't allow the bread to rise properly
- 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.
What to know about the proofing and baking of Guyanese plait bread
- 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. But homemade bread doesn't need to look perfect so you can just eyeball the three parts if you do not have a kitchen scale.
- 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, but by all means tear it apart and dip in some tea.
- 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 near where the bread is proofing.
- 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 a kitchen towel for a few minutes.
Proof the yeast in warm water, if you don't have a thermometer, just make sure the water is lukewarm. Add 1 tsp sugar, give it a stir and let it bloom for 10 minutes until it looks foamy.
After kneading, place the dough ball in a well-greased bowl. Allow to rise about 1 hour. This is known as the first proof.
Gently poke it down to deflate.
Knead by hand for 4-5 minutes until the air bubbles are all deflated or place in a stand mixer with the dough hook to knead for about 6-7 minutes.
Cut a small piece of dough to be added on top of bread- this is optional. You can also just cut the dough into three equal parts.
Roll each dough ball in between your palms, leaving the middle a little wide.
Begin to braid.
Place bread in desired baking dish lined with parchment paper.
Allow rising in a cool oven or microwave until double in size, about 20-25 min. This is known as the second proof.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-26 minutes. After removing from oven, rub some melted butter on top.
And cover with a towel and leave it for a few minutes.
Guyanese Plait Bread
- 1 packet rapid rise or active dry yeast (equal to about 2 ½ tsp)
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ cup warm water
- 3 ½ cups flour plus ½ cup for kneading (use regular or unbleached all-purpose)
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup white granulated or brown sugar
- ¼ cup melted unsalted butter, vegetable oil, or shortening
- ¾ cup warm milk or water
- Melted butter to brush on top after baking
- Place yeast and ¼ tsp sugar in a deep bowl. Add warm water, stir and allow to bloom for 10 minutes until it looks foamy.
- In a mixing bowl, add flour, sugar, and salt, mix to combine. Make a well in the center. Pour in melted butter, yeast mixture and warm milk all at once and stir to make a sticky dough. Knead by hand for 4-5 minutes adding flour as needed. Alternatively you can start with flour, sugar, salt in the bowl of a stand mixer then using the dough hook, knead for 6-7 minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky. Remove from bowl onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball sprinkling flour as needed.
- Transfer dough ball to a well-oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place on the counter or in an oven (turned off). Allow to rise about 45 minutes to one hour. Dough should have doubled in size.
- Now gently deflate dough by poking with your fingers, knead by hand again on a floured surface for a couple of minutes until dough has no more air pockets about 4-5 minutes.
Braid the dough
- After second kneading you may cut a small piece of dough to be added on top of bread, this is optional. Then cut the remainder of the dough into 3 equal parts, just averaging the size. Or omit the small piece and just cut the dough into three equal parts. You may also use a kitchen scale to weigh the dough and then divide it by 3. Make sure each third is now equal in weight.
- Roll each of the three pieces of dough on the counter top or between palms of hands one at a time to shape logs, leaving the middle of each log a little wide. This helps with the oval shape after braiding.
- Braid dough according to photos in this post and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set it aside on counter top or in oven (turned off) or microwave. You may place a bowl of warm water in the oven or microwave to help create humidity for the dough to rise.
- Allow to proof about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove tray from oven. Gently poke the side of the bread, if it feels airy and bounces back, then it is ready to bake.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F, bake for about 25-26 minutes until golden brown.
- When the bread is done, brush with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel for no longer than a few minutes to keep the crust soft. Slice and enjoy!
- After bread is cooled, you can wrap it in wax paper and store it in a large airtight container, large zip-loc bag or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap then aluminum foil.
I like using Red start yeast for this bread.