So, I don’t know if you guys caught my rant on my Facebook page the other day, but I had a pretty bad baking session over the past few days.
Inspired by the many stunning pictures on my Instagram feed, I badly wanted to make the “Ugly sweater Cookies” for the current season drenched in the Christmas spirit. I don’t want to get into the happenings of that rueful process again but let me just say that it didn’t go so well! After wasting 2.5 days on those cookies, I finally had to bin them! I was heart-broken and needed a successful baking session to boost up my confidence before I began preparing for my massive Christmas Rum cake. That is the sole reason that I have been busy in the kitchen today of all days. What’s so different about today you ask??….. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!
To be honest, I am in bit of a shock that I have turned THIRTY! I mean, that’s way older than what I imagine myself to be inside my head.. *Sigh!*
Anyway, usually my kitchen is pretty much closed each year on my birthday, especially for the extensive stuff, but today turned out to be an exception. I was hyper-ventilating about my ruined cookies and I knew that I won’t be able to get over them unless I bake myself something nice and succeed at it!
Thus, I present to you my fragrant and very apt for the season- Christmas Wreath Bread!
I am so relieved to have gotten this one right, not so much for my (shattered) ego but more so because Christmas is right on our door-steps and I really wanted to make something ‘Christmassy’ (is that a word?) in the week preceding the big day.
This cheese-filled wreath bread gets a beautiful aroma from the fresh Rosemary and is very, very easy to make even if you are a beginner level baker. All you have to do is follow the instructions carefully and you literally can’t go wrong with it. This will make for a beautiful accompaniment for your Christmas dinner.
I will be back on the Christmas day with my Rum cake but if I don’t see you until after the 25th, I wish you and your family a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
Happy Holidays Folks! Enjoy loads! xx
For the dough-
– 2 cups plain flour
– ½ cup luke-warm water
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 tsp dry yeast
– ½ tsp salt
– A sprig of fresh Rosemary, very finely chopped
– 1 tsp Honey
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 1-2 tbsn water for kneading, if needed
– Mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
– 2 tsp Mixed Italian seasoning
– 1 egg
– Salt & pepper for seasoning
– Firstly, let us make the dough. We will start by activating the yeast. In a large mixing bowl, take luke-warm water, dry yeast and sugar. Mix well and keep to rest for 10 mins. Remember, water should be strictly lukewarm. Not hot or cold. That will kill the yeast.
– When you see a foamy layer on top of your mixture, that indicates that your yeast has activated well!
– Next, add your flour, salt, honey, 1 tsp very finely chopped Rosemary, 1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning and oil. Combine it into a soft dough. Add 1-2 tbsn water more, if needed.
– Dust some flour on the kitchen platform and knead your dough very well for 8-9 minutes. Look up ‘stretch-and-pull’ method on the internet. This step is very essential as we need to activate the gluten in the dough. Knead into a smooth ball.
– Grease a deep bowl with oil and place your dough in it. The bowl should be large and deep as the dough will rise and get doubled in size. Coat the dough surface all over with some more oil and cover the top of the bowl tightly in a cling-wrap.
– Rest the wrapped bowl of dough in a warm place for 8 hours. If the weather is very hot where you live, reduce the fermentation time to 2-3 hours.
– Transfer the fermented dough still wrapped in cling-film to the refrigerator and leave it there to cold ferment for 12 hours more. This step is optional but recommended! You can use the risen dough straight after the first fermentation (Punch the air out of it and knead for a few minutes more before shaping your dough into the desired shape) but the results are dramatically better if you cold ferment the dough too.
– When you are ready to bake your bread, take the dough out of the refrigerator and wait till it comes almost to the room temperature.
– Roll out your bread dough on a lightly floured surface in a thin sheet, and cut it into 15-20 square pieces.
– Take a cube of mozzarella and place it on a piece of dough. Sprinkle some salt & pepper for seasoning.
– Gently close the dough over the cheese cube and rotate carefully between your palms for getting a smooth, round doughball. Prepare all your doughballs this way.
– Cover your baking tray with a greased parchment paper and place your doughballs side by side with around half inch of space between them in a shape of a wreath. If your doughballs are of different sizes, place the smaller ones in the inner circle and larger ones in the outer circle.
– Cover with a cling film and keep aside for another 40 minutes for the final rise.
– Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C.
– Beat an egg into a bowl, and with a pastry brush, brush the dough-balls generously with your egg-wash. This will give your bread a beautiful glaze when baked!
– Sprinkle the Italian seasoning all over your wreath, while the egg-wash is still wet.
– Bake your wreath bread for around 25 minutes, till it gets wonderfully Golden Brown.
– Take it out of the oven and allow to sit for about 6-7 minutes. Serve as a center-piece for your Christmas dinner. Eat hot and enjoy!
– Using Honey in the dough is optional but recommended as I recently found out that it gives beautiful moisture to your home-made bread.
– It is essential to place your dough-balls at a little distance from each other before baking, because while getting baked, they will expand in size and merge beautifully together.
– If you are a seasoned baker, you can add the filling of Marinara sauce with your cheese inside your dough-balls! I didn’t dare chance it this time.
– if you have a round baking tin,use it for baking this bread as it will enhance the shape of your wreath. I didn’t have one big enough, thus I used this tray. You can also place a ball of crumpled parchment paper or foil in the middle to retain the wreath space while baking.
– Substitute Rosemary for your favorite Italian herbs in your dough. You can even use mixed fresh herbs that are very finely chopped,but do not over-crowd your dough.