The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Harvest Festival Sheaf

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Matt H's picture
Matt H

Harvest Festival Sheaf

I'm a longtime bread-lover and baker, and have been checking out the site for about a year now. What to post for a first entry on the amazing Fresh Loaf Bakers Blogs?


Whenever I'm invited to a potluck, I generally volunteer to bring the bread. This time, it was a friend's birthday. I asked my fiancé, "What kind of bread should I make?" while flipping through "The World Encyclopedia of Bread".


"How about this one?", I asked jokingly, pointing to a picture of the most complicated, ornate loaf I've ever seen. Needless to say, she thought it was a great idea, and couldn't be dissuaded. (She is also the type who will spend an entire Sunday afternoon trying to make perfect homemade "xiao long bao" or Shanghai soup dumplings, probably the hardest dish to get right in all of gastronomy.)


The result was our first Harvest Sheaf Loaf. The recipe called for 100% white flour, but I used about 1/2 whole wheat, and included some pre-fermented French-bread style dough. I love how self-referential this bread is: a wheat loaf made to look like a bundle of wheat. As you might expect, the shaping and sculpting is time-consuming. Best not to attempt solo!


Not knowing much about this bread, I did a bit of research on the web. It turns out that in England, they bake these for the harvest festival, and they often end up on a church altar. I also learned that they're popular with Wiccans. That's right, the old-time, mother earth, fertility goddess, witchcraft folks. There must be quite a few of them in the San Francisco area, so we're thinking of selling these on craigslist for next year's solstice! :)


We were so excited to eat it, that we never got a great photo after taking it out of the oven. And the mouse, poor fellow, got a bit deformed by oven spring! :(


I'd be curious if anyone else has tried one of these. It was fun to make, but once a year would certainly be enough for me.


Happy baking!


Matt


Snipping a sheaf


Harvest Festival Sheaf under construction


 


Harvest Festival Sheaf before baking



 

Comments

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I sure that was a lot of work.  Beautifully done.  I love the little mouse..to bad his eyes fell out..hope you stuck them back in!  Not to be picky but I would like to see it baked a little darker next go round : )


Sylvia

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Wow that is a wonderful piece of work and I love the mouse.  I can see why once a year would be enough...but what a great time of year it is!


Jeff

rick.c's picture
rick.c

I've heard of mice eating so much that they get fat and puffy to the point of their eyes popping out, now I've seen it.  I'm jealous of the bugger though, that is an impressive looking loaf!


Rick

Crider's picture
Crider

That's all I can say about that work of art.

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Love the whole thing.  The Harvest loaf looked great and the mouse was cute even without the eyes.  :-)  Great job!  Al


txfarmer's picture
txfarmer

What a master piece, and the little mouse is such a nice touch, with eyes or not. :P


Your wife is Chinese? I am originally from Shanghai too, and I agree that perfect Xiao Longbao is "almost" impossible outside of Shanghai, maybe it's the water, maybe it's the technique, maybe it's just my memory playing tricks on me...

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Quite often these decorative pieces are made from a dead dough that is yeastless so there is not the problems associated with proof and oven spring they also last for quite a long time but you dont get to eat them


very nice and well done regards yozza

Matt H's picture
Matt H

I can't even imagine baking something that can't be eaten! That's just labor in vain. :)

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You certainly know how to make an entrance Matt. Well done.


Eric

chouette22's picture
chouette22

... (sans the cute mouse) and posted it in my introductory post on TLF as well!


I have made it twice so far, but just like you, I also say once a year is enough!


Welcome!

Matt H's picture
Matt H

Very cool. Yours looks great!


The mouse got so many appreciative comments that I think next time I'll just make a trayful of bread mice!

Bixmeister's picture
Bixmeister

Matt, nice looking bread project.  Keep on baking!


 


Bix


 

Bixmeister's picture
Bixmeister

Matt, nice looking bread project.  Keep on baking!


 


Bix


 

Mark W's picture
Mark W

PLEASE don't tell me how hard this is!  I've got to make one on Saturday.

workerbee's picture
workerbee

Just thought I would let you know about my experiences making a harvest loaf. I have been making theses loaves for several years, mainly in Primary Schools and always with the childrens help. They are relatively easy to make and the children have great fun. Gather the class around the table and make a basic white bread dough on the table so the children can see what's happening, then split the dough around the class and let them knead it, saving a lot of hard work! The assembly is straight forward, firstly roll out a 'key' shape on the biggest baking sheet you can borrow from the school kitchen, then get the children to roll out the various components, assemble, egg wash continually during construction and finally snip the ears of corn. Ask a teacher to make the plait, and use any left over dough for the children to make their own harvest mouse. Prove, then bake, simple!!

Matt H's picture
Matt H

That's great workerbee! Pics please!

So, are you making it to look like corn rather than wheat? That would be a riff on tradition! :)