The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Harvest Festival Sheaf

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!


Snipping a sheaf

Harvest Festival Sheaf under construction


Harvest Festival Sheaf before baking



SylviaH's picture

I sure that was a lot of work.  Beautifully done.  I love the little 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 : )


Yerffej's picture

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!


rick.c's picture

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!


Crider's picture

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

althetrainer's picture

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

txfarmer's picture

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

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

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


chouette22's picture

... (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!


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

Matt, nice looking bread project.  Keep on baking!




Bixmeister's picture

Matt, nice looking bread project.  Keep on baking!




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! :)