Daring Bakers’ February, 2014 Challenge: Beautiful Bread


Za’atar Bread


Nutella Twist

Blog-­checking lines: 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? 

I’ve been making bread since my teens, but always in very traditional shapes.  Other than braided Challah, I’ve never before tried manipulating my bread dough into a shape that doesn’t go into a pan.  Sawsan provided us with instructions for two beautiful shapes to try.  The shaping instruction she gave us was inspired by the shaped breads of Valentina Zurkan, whose breads truly are works of art.   They were both surprisingly easy to make and so fun to shape.  It’s kind of like origami, but one in which you have to wait for the baking to be finished to know the outcome.

I started with the first recipe, a kind of flower shaped cinnamon sweet bread, but opted to make it savory with a filling of za’atar seasoning instead of the cinnamon sugar.  The bread was soft with a subtle flavor and beautiful color from the seasoning mix.  One of things I really like about this shape is the built-in portion control.  Each of the 8 “petals” can easily be pulled away from the shape to serve and the slice looks just as beautiful on its own as it did as part of the whole.

The shaping for this bread was simple.   A raised dough is divided into 4 large pieces (plus optionally one very small piece for the center) which are each rolled into a circle.  These circles of dough are brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with the spice mix and stacked, leaving the spice mix off of the top circle.  The stack is cut into 8 triangles by cutting through the stack of circles.  A vertical slit is cut in the center of each triangle through which the point of the triangle is manipulated.  The wide sides of the triangle are then pinched together.  If desired, a small coil of dough can be spiraled in the center of the loaf where the points of the triangle comes together.  The whole thing is then brushed with milk and baked until golden.

The 2nd bread that Sawsan challenged us to make was a twisted Nutella Bread.  I loved the flavor of this one!  My first attempt was not very successful, but following some helpful tips from Sawsan, I was able to make a 2nd loaf (using my sourdough starter!) that came out fairly attractively.  Like the first bread, this one was formed with a stack of 4 circles of dough which had Nutella spread between the layers.  The center of the circular stack is cut into 16 points.  Each point is twisted a couple of times to form a star shape in the center of the bread.  The whole thing is brushed with an egg-like wash and baked until brown.

A big “thank-you” to Sawsan for introducing me to such a beautiful way to shape bread.  I know I will be using these techniques again and again!

The recipes for this challenge can be found at this link.


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