Monday, January 24, 2011

Snowflake Bread

I decided since we don't get to see snow too often around here that I could conjure some up in my oven.  That's right.  My oven makes snow.  One flake at a time.  See...
Actually, I just like to play with my food and turn it into unlikely shapes and animals and such.  Given that its January, the middle of winter, and the closest thing we'll get to snow is dense fog, I decided to let my food be part of my "pretty winter" fantasy.  Cause fog isn't pretty. 

Start with a blob of dough.  I pretty much always use french bread, cause that's how I roll.  (Get it?...anyone?)  However you attain the bread dough is completely up to you.  I make mine in the bread machine because
a). I have one
b). Its easy
c). It beeps to remind me that I made dough an hour and a half ago.  Otherwise, I might forget.  True. 

You can also buy frozen bread dough from the freezer aisle or make your own recipe the old fashioned way.

I do this...

Dump the ingredients in the bread pan - liquids first, followed by dry, yeast last.  Put it in the bread machine and set it to 'dough,'  press start.  An hour and a half later, I have french bread dough.  I love my bread machine.

I decided to use only half the dough and freeze the rest for later.  You can do that, you know. 

Divide your dough ball into eight pieces that are more or less equal in size.  I do this by squeezing the dough in the center between my thumb and finger.

Then twist and break it in two.
You'll have to work quickly to avoid drying out the dough, but as an extra precaution, cover the dough you're not currently working with a towel.  So you've got eight dough balls...
This is what you'll do to each one of them.
Step 1 - Divide the ball into two equal pieces.  Set one half aside, divide the other half into three equal sized pieces.

 Step 2 - Take each of the smaller dough balls and roll them between the palm of your hands forming a "snake" about 4-5 inches long.  Lay them on top of each other in an asterisk pattern.  Flatten the center with your fingertip.
Step 3 - Take the second half of the original dough ball and divide it in two.  Divide each of those halves into three equal pieces.  You should end up with six very small dough balls.

Step 4 - Form a "snake" about 3 inches long with each of the six dough balls.  Pick up one snake and find the middle.  Bend it into a 'V' shape and lay it across one of the arms of the asterisk that you previously formed.  The 'V' should be pointing outward. 

 Do this with each of the snakes.

One snowflake down, seven to go.  Repeat the steps for each of the remaining dough balls.  Be sure to cover the snowflakes and dough balls with a towel to keep them from drying out before you get them into the oven.  You should end up with this...

Before you start on the last snowflake, preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  When you finish your snowflake, turn the oven off, cover your dough with a towel and place the tray (towel and all) into the warm oven for 30 minutes.  This is just warm enough to let the dough rise without baking them.  When you pull them out, they'll look like this...
Notice the wonky one in the upper left corner.  This is what happens when the dough sticks to the towel you laid over it and you have to pull it off.

Bummer.  But it happens.  Preheat your oven to 350.  While it heats up, you can do this:

Crack an egg and separate the yolk from the white.  Add a little water to the egg white and whisk it with a fork. 

Gently brush the egg wash over the dough.
And just to add to the magical snowiness of the finished product, sprinkle on a little bit of kosher salt.  I think it gives it a little winter sparkle.

Now put these in the oven for 22-25 minutes, or until they are nice and golden brown.

The smell of fresh bread is so comforting.  Serve these along with your favorite cold weather soup or stew, or maybe some pasta, or even a salad.  They're just fun to eat. 

Or you could eat them as a snack like I do (too often, I should add), with a little dipping oil on the side.

This is one of my favorite snacks. 

To make the dipping oil simply combine two parts extra virgin olive oil and one part balsamic vinegar.  Add a pinch and a dash of the following: salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and red pepper flake.  Give it a little stir with a fork and let it sit for a minute or two before dunking.  You want the herbs to infuse the oil.  If you don't have all those herbs on hand, you could easily substitute them for a couple dashes of Italian seasoning.

Try this if you're feeling creative and you want to impress your kids! 

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