500g Strong White Bread Flour
30g Poppy Seeds
15ml Sunflower Oil
5g Dried Yeast
Into a wide-necked jug, pour the water and sugar. The water should be tepid; when you dip your finger into it, it should feel neither hot or cold.
Allow the sugar to dissolve and then whisk in the yeast. Cover and set aside until the mixture has started to froth, which will take about fifteen minutes.
Place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast/water mixture. (It may smell a bit pungent, but as long as the yeast is within date it's fine.)
If you are using a mixer, this is the point at which you should set it to a medium speed and allow the ingredients to combine before adding the sunflower oil. Allow the machine to knead the dough for 10 minutes.
If you are not using a mixer, coat your hand with some of the oil and pour the rest in with the ingredients. Bring the ingredients together with your hands and turn out onto a clean, oiled surface. Knead the dough until it is as smooth as possible, which will take around 10 minutes. Then shape the dough into a round.
Wipe out the bowl in which you mixed the ingredients and place the dough, coated with a little oil to stop it sticking, in the bottom. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, or place the entire thing inside a new bin liner and seal the top. Leave the dough to ferment until it has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of the room and the water you used, this will take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Deflate the dough a little, reshape it, place it back in the bowl and leave to rise until it has doubled in size again.
Deflate the dough with your fingertips and turn it out onto the work surface. Shape the dough into the desired shape and place it into a flour-coated bannetone or onto a floured baking tray. Cover and leave to prove for a third time until almost doubled in size – about an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting, putting a roasting tin of boiling water into the bottom beforehand to create steam. Slash the top of the loaf several times with a sharp knife and transfer it to the hot oven quickly so as not to allow the steam to escape. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 180°C. Continue to bake the loaf for another 40 minutes.
Remove the loaf from the oven and gently tap its bottom with a knuckle: if it sounds hollow, it's done; if not, bake it for a few more minutes. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The bread is best eaten on the day it is made, but will be delicious as toast the following day.
1 loaf | 5 hours