Making bread in the form of a caterpillar like this one is not only cute and clever, it's also practical. The body segments are perfect rolls, and the legs are bread sticks.
There's no need for cutting - segments separate neatly with just a little tug. This would be great for a party or just for a fun dinner with the family.
If you're a bread baker, feel free to use this design with your own favorite bread recipe.
If you're not a bread baker and you like the idea, you can use frozen bread dough, a bread mix, or any other easy and convenient bread dough.
If you're serving a lot of people and you're going to be making multiple caterpillars, consider making different types of bread, and alternating them for an interesting color contrast in the body.
I like to use a fairly firm dough for bread sculptures; they behave better than wetter doughs that are more likely to spread or rise unpredictably.
If you don't have your own favorite dough but you want to make something completely from scratch, give this recipe a try. It's simple and it works well for sculpted loaves. And it tastes good, too.
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups (13 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Set aside until it bubbles, about 10 minutes.
Add the bread flour and knead with the dough hook of the mixer until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and oil and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic and the oil and salt are completely incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You could also sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal, but it's easier to remove for cooling if you use parchment.
Flour your work surface lightly and turn the dough out. Knead briefly, then form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough into quarters, then cut each of those quarters into quarters again, so now you have 16 pieces. Form 12 of those pieces into balls, as you would for rolls.
Cut the remaining 4 pieces into thirds, so you now have 12 small pieces. Roll each of those pieces into a long, thin rope, a little thinner than a pencil. Arrange the ball and ropes on your baking sheet so that the balls barely touch each other and there is a rope underneath each "joint" between the balls. You'll use up 11 of the ropes. You'll need to arrange the balls in a twisty shape so that it will all fit on the pan, and you'll need to adjust the legs so they don't touch during baking.
Take the last rope and cut in thirds. Use two pieces for antennas on the head of the caterpillar, and make a small ball from the third piece flatten it a bit to a disc-shape and place it just under the head to make the pincer "mouth" for the caterpillar.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
With a small pair or scissors, snip two "eyelids" on the face of the caterpillar, snip completely through the disc "mouth."
Snip a decorative pattern on the body, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until it is golden brown.
Remove the caterpillar to a rack to cool. When it's warm, it tends to want to separate, but after it has cooled it will hold together well.
This was published on Serious Eats and has been submitted to Tastespotting.