Thursday, February 27, 2014

February Daring Bakers' Challenge - Beautiful Breads

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?

Now, you know that I love making  bread. Love it. Yeasted, sourdough, quick - I love breads of all varieties.

But another thing you probably can tell about me is that... umm... I am not that good with the decorative side of baking. Cake decorating, food styling... and the requirement for this month's challenge... bread designing.

But the recipes and styles that Sawsan presented were so beautiful and inspirational that I didn't let fear hold me back - I jumped right in!

I made one of the given bread-dough recipes, though the recipe wasn't the main challenge of this... well... challenge, and got to work.

The first step was to divide the dough into four pieces and roll each into a circle.

Well, circle-ish.

Then each dough circle (ish) was spread with butter (coconut oil for us - kept it dairy-free) and some sort of filling. I chose ground chocolate and cinnamon sugar.

The four circles are stacked together and cut into eight triangles, each with a slit in the middle.

The next step is to loop the point of the triangle up through the slit and back into place. Sounds tricky, but really isn't too bad.

I mean, it's a bit messy when the filling spills out of the sides, but, really, it's not too bad.

Then the two wide points of the triangle are pinched togehter.

And finally, if you want (which, obviously, I did...), you can add a twist of dough to the center to really finish the "flower" look.

And then you bake!

Mine came out a touch darker than I'd  hoped, but other than that, turned out prettier than I'd expected. And the best part?

YUM. Seriously delicious. And, as a plus, each individual "petal" piece actually looked better than the flower as a whole, so with each section I ate, I reallly did get a sense that I made something beautiful.

Now, I made that bread early in the beginning of the month. And the bakers on the forum were posting such delicious and beautiful breads, I really wanted to try again. So I did!

I used the same dough recipe, used a brown sugar-cinnamon filling and tried a simpler but still pretty design.  Still started with four circles, but the cuts and twists were different.

Using a small cup as a place-holder, I cut the dough into wedge-shaped sections.

I then simply twisted each section to create a swirl design.

And, again, we bake! I lowered the temperature a touch this time to try to keep the bread from getting as dark and it seems to have worked.

Again, not quite as even and dramatically beautiful as the other breads that were posted, but I still think that it looked  nice and, more importantly, it tasted delicious.

Sawsan, you are a true inspiration, a wonderful baker, and, most importantly, someone I am proud to call friend. Thank you for this challenge, your encouragement and your friendship.

To see the other amazing, impressive and beautiful breads baked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

And to see the full challenge as prepared by Sawsan (which I highlly, highly recommend!!), check it out  here.

Shaped, Filled Bread
(from February Daring Bakers' Challenge)

For the dough:
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk (I used coconut milk)
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, softened (I used coconut oil)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon cardamom, optional (I omitted)

In a bowl, whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the salt (and the optional cardamom).
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough.
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 (or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) and cover it with a wet cloth or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to double in size (approximately an hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).

To create the flower shape:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough into 4 parts.
Roll each part into a circle at least 8 inches in diameter.
Brush the first layer with butter (coconut oil) then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (or filling of your choice).
Place the second layer on the first layer repeat the brushing and sprinkling and then do the same with the third layer.
Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.
Using a knife, make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles.
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 photo above).
Take the tip of each triangle and insert it into the cut you made and pull it from the underside
Arrange the triangles a parchment covered baking sheet.
Pinch the two angles at the base of each triangle together.
Note: If you would like to add the little bread coil that you see in the center of the bread like I did above, 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 milk or egg-wash if you would like.
Allow the shaped bread to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to very hot 500 degrees with the rack in the middle position.
Place bread in the oven and lower temperature to 460 degrees.
Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to moderately hot 390 degrees and bake for 15-20 more minutes.
Note - some people felt that this baking method produced too dark a crust on the bread. You can bake your bread at around 375 degrees for around 30 minutes instead if you are more comfortable with that.
Take the bread out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rick and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk or glaze of your choice while it is still warm.



  1. Shelley, being your friend is a true honor because people like you are extremely rare nowadays
    Thank you for taking on this challenge with me
    But above all, thank you for being the wonderful person that you are

  2. Your bread is gorgeous! I want to try the cinnamon and chocolate filling myself.

  3. Great job Shelley! I love your design on the second bread.

  4. Your breads are wonderful, they really are, don't be so hard on yourself!

  5. They both are beautiful, love the touch of chocolate in the first one and the shape of the second

  6. Beautiful breads Shelley! I really like that second shape you made.


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