Sweetened and plaited breads are popular in Germany – for breakfast at the weekend (or on any other morning of the week if I get the chance), but also with coffee or tea in the afternoon. A favourite variation of mine is this plait filled with a sweet poppy seed mixture. It tastes and looks quite special (even if I say so myself), but it is actually quite easy to make. The poppy seed in the mix can be replaced with ground nuts - hazelnuts and/or almonds are best. Many different variations in flavour are possible with the addition of, for example, grated lemon zest, cinnamon, cocoa powder or even grated marzipan.
Poppy seeds are widely used in cakes and other sweet dishes in Central and Eastern Europe. It is not a problem to buy packets of poppy seed in the UK – I usually get mine from the organic supermarket. Unfortunately, I have never found ground poppy seed as needed for this plait and also for other cakes (such as my poppy seed cake). However, poppy seed can be ground (or at least bruised) in a decent food processor or even with a mortar and pestle). I don’t recommend using whole poppy seed, as this has quite an unpleasant, sandy texture.
I usually bake this plait in a large cake tin (about 30 cm long) to give it an even shape. It can be baked without a tin, but this will result in a flatter shaped loaf.
For the bread:
20 g fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dry)
130 ml milk
400 g plain flour
40 g sugar
70 g butter
For the filling:
100 g ground poppy seeds
25 g semolina
60 g sugar
175 ml milk
Seeds of one vanilla pod
A good swig of rum (optional)
Dissolve the fresh yeast in the warm milk, add to the rest of the bread ingredients and knead to get a fairly firm ball of dough. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
In the meantime make the filling. Boil the milk with the sugar and vanilla, and then add the poppy seeds and semolina. Bring back to the boil briefly and set aside to allow the poppy seed and semolina to swell up and the mixture to cool down. Add the rum and mix well.
When the dough has risen roll it into a rectangle of about 20 by 30 cm. Evenly distribute the topping on the dough and roll up so you end up with a sausage about 30 cm long. Carefully cut this sausage down the middle with a serrated knife. Then twist the two halves into a braid and place in a greased cake tin. Cover and leave to rise again for about 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes.