Break open the forbidden happiness.
~ Rob Brezsny
I suppose I should warn you... this post contains graphic scenes of peace, love, joy, passion, reverence, splendor, and understanding. All in the form of food. So if you're feeling even the slightest bit jaded today, I suggest you proceed to read on with caution or else, come back another day. For this wreath bread is every bit as delicious as it is joyous to look at and what makes it even more splendid is that it is deceptively easy to make. Wish to be the next Bread Idol? Then you should attempt this recipe during the holiday season : ).
Following on from the success of my Happy Bread, a bouquet of pull-apart brioche rolls, I decided to use the same buttery dough and adapt it to the festive atmosphere by adding dried cranberries, candied lemon and orange peel (homemade) and white chocolate chunks. The yeasted wreath idea is nothing new, of course. When I first caught sight of this one on my Bread Idol's blog, Farine, I couldn't get the image out of my mind for weeks and knew I simply had to try making it myself!
I had plans for a colored, candy-stripey kind of dough but in the end kept it simple as I didn't want any distractions from the decadent flavors. The first wreath bread I made I gave away to a friend, who asked how I created the spiky 'leaves' on the crust to look similar to dragon fruit skin? It was something that never occurred to me before, but once uttered, was all I could think of every time I see the bread spikes....Geez.
As far as I am concerned, you need only three skills to make this incredible bread - kneading, braiding and snipping (with a pair of scissors). If you're a hairdresser, you're probably already three-quarters on your way towards producing a beautiful wreath bread should you ever want to do so. And oh, you really should want to!
So we've come to the part I have set aside for some reverence and gratitude. I am not kidding when I say how in awe I am of the many, many, MANY people who have pinned (on Pinterest) the picture below and who have baked/are planning to bake this Happy Bread. As a big thank you to you all, I have made a quick video that shows you how the cut dough pieces are magically transformed into the bread bouquet below. Enjoy!
Happy Bread (above) and how-to video (below)
FUN STUFF OVER THE WEEKEND- HARVESTING OUR OWN RICE
Passion. I've never equated it with anything much to do with romance but love, yes. A grand love for life! And speaking of passion, both my parents have a great love for the land. Or rather, growing things out of it. While it's unfortunate that I have inherited none of their mother earth-nurturing skills, I do have a strong leaning towards organically-grown food. Thinking of pure, unadulterated food makes my heart beat faster than say, thinking about Brad Pitt or (gulp) Paudge Behan.
And so via the sheer luck of it all, I was born to parents who happen to own a rather nifty vegetable patch and also acres of farmland on which to grow rice, or as we call that type of land here, padi fields. Last weekend, I managed to drag my sorry ass away from my hectic life long enough to visit the rice fields situated a few miles from our village. My dad is there everyday to oversee the harvesting season and we all enjoy helping lay out the rice grains for drying under the hot sun. Once dry, the grains will be milled to remove their husks and we'll have a supply of rice to last us until the next harvest, sometime next February/March. We are in the midst of the rainy season here now, so it is crucial to harvest the crop quickly on clear, sunny days. The heat from the sun feels so elusive and precious as gold right now.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes...peace, love, joy, passion, reverence, splendor, and understanding. Let's hope I've covered everything!
P.S. I'm sending this post to Yeastspotting over at Susan's Wild Yeast. She also got married last weekend, so 'love' and 'joy' - double-checked!
2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
100ml warm milk
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied orange and lemon peel, chopped
1 orange, juiced
100g white chocolate, finely chopped
500g all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and flouring
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 ml warm milk (extra)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
100 g butter, melted and cooled
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 100 ml warm milk, cover and leave in a warm place to rise 10 minutes.
2. Soak the cranberries and candied peel in the orange juice in a bowl and leave for at least 1 hour before use.
3. In another bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Make a well in the middle and add beaten eggs into it, the remaining warm milk, olive oil, vinegar and yeast mixture. Knead the dough with your hands or in your mixer until it separates from the sides of the bowl. Remove dough, place on lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it becomes a soft, pliable dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume - about an hour.
4. Punch risen dough and transfer on a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 3 equal parts. Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 1/4-inch. Brush cooled, melted butter over each piece. Reserve the rest of the butter for later.
5. Drain the soaked dried fruits, mix with the white chocolate and divide into 3 portions. Sprinkle 1/3 of fruits and chocolate on a buttered piece of dough. Press fruits lightly into the dough so they stick. Take the long edge and roll/ shape it into a rough cylinder. Do the same to each of the other 2 dough pieces.
6. Keep on rolling until you get a 30-inch long rope. (Note: It's best to do it in stages: roll out the first one to about 20 inches, then put it back under the plastic sheet and roll the next one, etc. By the time you come back to the first one, it will have slackened some and it'll be easier to get it to the desired length).
7. When you have your three ropes, braid them into a thick plait, then join the ends to make a wreath. Press ends firmly together. Cover with towel and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 180C. When the dough has risen, brush all over top of the bread with the melted butter. Reserve some butter for when the bread comes out of the oven.
9. Take a pair of scissors and cut 1 to 2-inch "leaves" by snipping horizontally in each section of the braid. (Refer to above video). Continue to snip leaves all around the wreath; the leaves will lift themselves up as the bread bakes.
10. Bake bread for 20-30 minutes, reducing the temperature to 160C after 10 minutes in the oven.
11. Brush bread with the remaining melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven, cover with a towel and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.