An eight strand plaited loaf was a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off and I have been wanting to try it since. The first attempt worked out quite well, but the one I made yesterday was absolutely beautiful:
Preheat the oven for 180°C.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Measure out the vegetable oil and put a pinch of salt in it. Place all the ingredients around the oil and mix with a hand mixer until it forms a dough. Knead on a slightly floured work surface for about 10 minutes!
Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Divide into eight portions and form long strings of dough (about 40cm long). Press all eight strands together at one end and start braiding:
(Count the strands from 1-8 starting at the left and start counting from the left again after each step)
1) Place 8 under 7 and over 1
2) Place 8 over 5
3) place 2 under 3 and over 8
4) place 1 over 4
5) place 7 under 6 and over 1
Repeat steps 2-5 until all dough is braided.
Pinch off both ends with your hands and leave to rest until double in size (about an hour).
Prepare some eggwash (a whisked egg and some milk) and brush over the loaf.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and making a hollow sound when tapped at bottom.
You should be able to see the an evenly braided structure at the bottom of the bread too: