Holiday Wreath Bread

August 3rd, 2010 · Recipes

[donotprint]"How would someone who really knows you describe your WORST qualities?"

That is one of the questions from the Masterchef season three online application form. There is a whole lot more questions in the application - 82 questions to be exact but this question is one of the toughest, after that silly "Where would you see yourself in 5 years time?" question. Gosh, I hate those questions! I feel like singing my answer to the question, "I want to be a Billionaire... so friggin' baddd...."

Back to the first question, I think my worse qualities are possibly I can be very stubborn at times and always aim very high at whatever I do which can be my downfall. Someone said because I am a Libran, they are perfectionists and like to do things their own ways and never give up until perfecto. Maybe... maybe not. But when I know I want to make some breads for our Christmas in July dinner party few weeks back, I didn't want to just make loaves of breads, but something a lot fancier, something pretty to look at and also taste good. So I set myself a challenge and decided to make the Holiday Wreath Bread. Yep, things I'll do to myself while already busy juggling a gazillion things at once. As promised, I will slowly putting up all the recipes from our dinner party here on the blog.

This is the first time I made wreath bread, so the result wasn't as good as I'd hoped for. Am I contradicting myself again here after I just saying that I am a perfectionist? Hmm.. whatever. But Artisan Bread in Five minutes has a great post to teach you how to make them. I used a very basic bread dough recipe on Jamie Oliver's blog and it is so easy and worked like a  charm. Initially I thought the quantity of the recipe will make heaps of bread and decided to cut it down by half, then I regretted as it was just enough dough for me to make 2 small wreath breads. So I'd advice you to follow the recipe to a tee and go all out.

One of the down side of making small wreath breads is the ring simply not big enough to have enough space for the folding. Especially when doing the double-pleating on both sides, which ended with leaves overlapping on the inside.

The first wreath is a basic wreath without adding any extra flavour and just a simple one side folding. Be brave with the scissors and cut away, without snapping the ring off that is, then it's just a matter of folding each "leaf bun" facing outwards overlapping on top one another.

I really shouldn't have messed with Jamie's recipe by cutting it half. I found perhaps I used too much yeast in the dough, it puffed up like mad and also taste very "yeasty"? But the bread is firm and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside which is all matters to me.

I had a little more fun with the second dough by adding lemon thyme, and doing a zig-zag fold. I probably prefer the added lemon thyme to cover up some of the strong yeasty flavour, but the zig-zag folding technique definitely has more room to improve.

Don't worry too much if it doesn't look tidy after folding, because the dough will puff up with a smooth surface a little during the second proving, and it will fill up most of the gaps once baked. Just only wish that my wreath is a lot bigger to actually can really see that it is actually a ring. Oh well, next time.

The holiday wreath breads are so beautiful and they really add the festive touch on the table. I simply serve them on a chopping board with some home made truffle butter and everyone just tear off one of the "leaf buns" and spread with butter - no cutting, no fuss, pure bliss of homemade freshly baked bread, that's how a holiday feast should be, eat to your heart's content. [/donotprint]

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Holiday wreath bread (adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe) Ingredients 1kg/just over 2lb strong bread flour
625ml/just over 1 pint tepid water
30g/1oz fresh yeast or 3 x 7g/¼oz sachets dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
extra flour for dusting
1 bunch of lemon thyme

Method 1. Using a mixer - Add flour, dried yeast, sugar, sea salt into the mixing bowl and mix all together. Just a dough hook attachment, turn on the mixer on low speed, and slowly pour the water into the bowl while spinning. The dough will slowly come together and is ready for next step.

By hand - Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork or hand. Slowly but steadily, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don't want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Keep adding more water bit by bit and bringing in all the flour until all well mixed to form a very sticky dough. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)

2. This is the crucial part. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.

3. It is ready for the first prove. Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough. My own trick - turn the electric stove on for 1 minute or so when the stove top just heat up enough but not too hot. Then turn it off and put the mixing bowl on the stove top and let it prove. The heat from the stove will help the yeast expanding but not hot enough to cook the dough, so take extra care that the stove top is not too hot.

4. Now this is the fun part! Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. Bring it back down to one dough, then split in half, or you can make a very large wreath bread by keeping it whole.

5. Stretch the dough into a ring and allow to set on a baking tray dusted with flour for about 30 minutes. For another dough, add lemon thyme and gently knead the dough until it is evenly covered with lemon thyme. Then shape into a ring and allow to set on another baking tray for 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 230 degree Celcius.

7. The dough rings will be expanded once more, and now should be fat and bouncy. Sprinkle the dough rings with flour. Use a pair of scissors and make a deep cut almost to the bottom of the ring then drag the "leaf" bun facing out by pulling scissors outward. Repeat this step until the whole dough ring is cut.
Same theory to make the zig-zag fold, cut the dough deep enough then pull the "leaf" bun facing out follow by one facing in until the whole ring is formed.

8. Then bake the rings in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes. By now, you will already have half decorated the house with the smell of freshly baked bread ready for the festive season.

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