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.