Friday, February 28, 2014

Daring bakers - beautiful bread

Back in 2010 to 2011 I was a part of an online group called the Daring Bakers. On the first of every month I would log in to the forum and learn about our unique baking challenge for the month. Then, on the 27th of the month, I (along with everyone else) would blog about it.

I was introduced to some incredibly unique recipes through this group (like the joconde imprime below), most of which I never would have attempted without the Daring Bakers community. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see all the challenges I participated in).

joconde imprime
And then I moved to Chicago, got a full time job, and just sorta stopped. But with my New Year's resolution to devote more time to me and what makes me happy, I decided to pick up the challenges again.

"Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?"

Basically the challenge was to make dough from scratch, then do some really crazy twisting/turning of it to create unique and beautiful decorative breads. She provided us with ideas for sweet fillings (cinnamon, nutella, chocolate, etc) but I decided to go savory this time, as I've been on a healthy-eating kick these days.

It may look completely daunting to tackle, but really it wasn't so bad at all.

Basically I just made a very simple bread, kneaded it by hand for 10 minutes, and let it rise until doubled. Then I divided the dough into 4 pieces and rolled out each one. Then they just get layered, like a lasagna.

I decided to fill the bread with a red-pepper puree, zatar spice mixture, and a bit of gruyere cheese, which kinda made it taste like pizza.

Then you cut the whole thing into 8 pieces, and do some magic folding. I didn't take any photos because it got a bit messy at this point, but below are a few pictures from our host that will help explain the process.

After cutting out the 8 slices, cut 2/3 of the way in the middle of each slice (lengthwise). Then take that corner piece, tuck it into the slit, and pull it out the other side.

Once you're done with that, just pinch the edges together and you have a perfectly formed segment.

Well, let's be honest, mine were far from perfect, as the red pepper puree made it a bit challenging at first. But after the first few pieces you get the hang of it. No worries though, it looks pretty cool, messy and all!

Save a bit more bread than I did so you can make a nice spiral in the center

In the original directions our host placed the tips of the wedges on the inside of the bread, but I saw this idea from someone and preferred the tips facing outward.

Then all you have to do is let the dough rise for a little longer, and pop it into the oven.  Easy peasy, but quite the show stopper! And it easily separates into 8 equal pieces.

As far as how the recipe turned out, overall I'd say it was pretty successful! The bread was really simple to make and incredibly tender. It was a little bland, but more zatar would have easily fixed that problem. The texture of the bread was almost like a soft pizza dough bread. It didn't really have a "hearty" bread flavor (which I love), but you can't really expect that from a white bread recipe.

The only bad thing is that with the shape of my final bread, the outside edges started getting a bit golden before the center was fully cooked. But just cover with a bit of foil to prevent overbrowning.

Coiled pizza bread, adapted from our Daring Baker's Host Chef in Disguise


For the dough
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm milk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3-1/4 cups (780 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, approximately
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) dry yeast

Between the layers
1 jar roasted red/yellow peppers, pureed and cooked down to thicken a bit
za'atar to sprinkle, or any other spice you like (oregano, rosemary, etc)
2 oz shredded gruyere (or more)


Making the dough
  • In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside. In another bowl sift the flour with the salt .
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough, around 10 minutes without stop. (Note: This recipe requires between 3-1/4 and 3-1/2 cups of flour depending on the weather, humidity and the flour brand. Start with 3-1/4 cups and if you feel that the dough is too soft, add the extra 1/4 cup.)
  • Place the dough in a bowl you have brushed with some oil and cover with a wet cloth. Leave  in a warm place to double. 
Preparing the bread
  • When doubled, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Reserve a bit of bread for any decorations you might want to make (center coil, etc) and divide the rest of the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each quarter into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter.
  • Brush the first layer with olive oil, top with a spoon full of red pepper puree, a healthy sprinkling of your spices, and a hand full of cheese.
  • Place the second layer of bread on the first layer. Repeat with the olive oil/puree/spices/cheese, the 3rd piece of bread, and the final layer of filling. Top with the fourth layer of bread and brush only with olive oil.
Fold the bread
  • Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles. In each triangle, make cuts that go 2/3 of the way in the middle of each triangle. The cuts should not reach the base of the triangle nor the tip (see above).
  • Take the tip of each triangle and insert it into the cut you made and pull it from the underside. Then pinch the base of the triangle together
  • Arrange the triangles on a baking sheet or pizza stone. Note: If you would like to add the little bread coil in the center of the baked cinnamon bread in the first picture, simply roll a piece of dough into a rope then form it into a little coil and place it in the center where the heads of the triangles meet
  • Brush the dough with olive oil
  • Allow to rest for 15-30 minutes, during which heat your oven to very hot 500°F (rack in the middle).
  • Bake for 5 minutes. Then bring the temperature down and bake for 5 minutes on 460°F, then lower the temperature to moderately hot 390°F and bake for 15-20 more minutes. If you find the bread is getting too brown and it is not done yet (mine needed at least another 10 minutes) cover loosely with some foil.
  • Take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Keep leftover bread in an airtight container.


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