Being dedicated scratchers, we bake our own bread about once a week. It may seem as if it takes a lot of time, but, most of that time is spent waiting for the yeast and micro-organisms in the starter to do their thing. During the rising times, we have millions and millions of little helpers just working themselves to the death to make our bread delicious. But, we aren’t here to talk about the yeast. Instead, we’re here to talk about shaping a bread wreath.
The bread wreath looks fancy, and you should keep it in mind, since the holidays will soon be upon us. Plus, you can use pretty much any bread dough for making this wreath. We humbly suggest using our Basic Bread recipe, as it’s super versatile (we make bagels, pitas, boules, dinner rolls, and more), and it makes a great tasting bread. Not only is a wreath a fancy way to show off your bread, it’s remarkable easy to shape, too. Let’s scratch one out together. We’ll assume you have bread dough that has already gone through the first (bulk) rise.
Cut off dough. We wanted about the same amount of dough that we use for our epis. After all, the wreath is pretty much just a circular epi, right? Using the same amount of dough means we can bake it for about the same amount of time, so use your bench knife and cut off a 400-gram piece of dough. A few grams here or there won’t make any difference, so don’t sweat it if yours isn’t exactly 400 grams.
Shape a sphere. Just pick up the dough and fold the cut edges together, working your dough into the shape of a ball. Try to keep that gluten coat smooth and unbroken.
Poke a hole through. Use your thumb or fingers to poke a hole right through the center of the sphere, forming the start of your wreath.
Form a torus. A torus is nothing but something shaped like a bagel or a doughnut, so use your hands to enlarge the hole until you have one of the biggest bagels you’ve ever seen. The dough should be about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, and the doughnut about 6 to 8 inches across. If the dough pulls back when shaping, give it a five-minute rest to relax.
Proof. Cover your doughnut with a clean towel and let it rise, undisturbed, until doubled in size. Depending on your dough and the temperature, this could be anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F. If you have one, place a baking stone in the oven to preheat, too. If not, you can place your wreath on a baking sheet before sliding it into the oven.
Snip and fold. Use a kitchen shears (or a clean scissors), to cut into the torus at a 45° angle. Don’t cut all the way through the torus; you want it to hold together, but cut most of the way through. As you cut, take each point of dough and pull and fold it out to the side. You can have all the points on the outside, or alternate inside points with outside points, or, if you want, make some other variation.
Bake. Use a pizza peel (or wide piece of cardboard) to lift your wreath (on the parchment) and place it on the baking stone. Bake until the bread is nicely browned and crisp, about 25 minutes.
Looks good, huh? No more trouble than shaping any other type of bread, but it does look perfect for either Thanksgiving or Christmas (or both). Just another little technique to break out from time to time to keep everyone on their toes.