I thought these cute little birds deserved their very own post. They're perfect for spring, and adorable for Easter. And - big bonus here - they're a lot easier to make than my Bunny Bread. Yes, the bunny is adorable, but it's trickier than these buns.
And, since you're probably piling these into a bread basket, you can put the best ones on top for everyone to oooh and aaaah over. By the time they get to the bottom of the basket, they'll just be slathering butter on them.
This bread is just slightly sweet - not like a sweet roll that you'd have for breakfast, but a slightly sweet dinner roll. Great with a dab of butter. A really good match for spicy food or barbecue.
Like any shaped bread, you're never going to get two that look alike - but that's part of the charm. They'll rise differently before baking, and they'll rise differently in the oven. It's unpredictably fun. And every once in a while, you'll get one that looks just plain weird. Hey, you have to sample one, right?
The hardest part about making these is getting the eyes and beak to behave. The rising dough wants to push them out, so you need to insert them a lot farther in than seems right. And then give them another little push right before they go into the oven.
I wanted to use completely edible items for the eyes and beak, so I used slivered almonds for the beaks and chocolate pearls for the eyes. I was a little concerned that the eyes might melt and make a mess, but it actually worked. The pearls are chocolate-coated crunchy cereal, so they had some substance.
Something more solid - like a peppercorn - would probably work better as an eye, but most folks don't want to bite into a peppercorn, so if you wanted to use something like that, you'd be wise to warn people. A piece of black olive or a bit of dried fruit should work, too. You probably don't need to run out and buy something - look around your kitchen and see what you have that would be edible and suitable.
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Chocolate pearls (for eyes)
Slivered almonds (for beaks)
You want the liquid to be at room temperature or just slightly warmer, so if your orange juice is straight from the refrigerator, use warmer water to compensate. You won't ruin anything by using cool liquid, but the dough will rise much, much slower.
Combine the water, orange juice, sugar, yeast, and bread flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Knead it with the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt and olive oil, and continue kneading until they are completely incorporated and the dough is smooth, silky, shiny and elastic.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Knead it briefly, then divide it into 8 even pieces.
Take one of the pieces and cut off about 1/4 of the dough. Form that smaller piece into a ball. Form the other piece into a teardrop shape.
Make a divot in the fat part of the teardrop-shaped piece, but not too close to the edge as shown in the photo.
Place the ball on top of the teardrop shaped piece on top of that divot you just made.
Place this on the baking sheet, with the pointy end facing the center of the sheet. This will make it easier to work on the face later.
Continue until all the birds are shaped.
Cover the birds with plastic wrap and set aside until nearly doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes in the first bird's head where you want the eyes and beak. Insert the eyes and beak, pushing them well into the dough. Keep in mind that they don't all need to be facing straight forward - you can position the faces so they're looking up, down, or to the side.
Continue with the rest of the birds, until all of them have eyes and beaks. Cover them with plastic wrap and let them continue rising until doubled - another 5-10 minutes, depending on how long it took to get the faces finished.
Uncover the birds again, and if the eyes and beaks have started protruding, push them back in again.
Bake at 350 degrees until the birds are nicely browned, about 30 minutes.
Remove the birds from the baking sheet and put them on a rack to cool.
If the eyes and beaks need to be pushed back in again, do so while the buns are still warm. Let them cool completely on the rack if you're not serving them right away.
Don't forget to check out Bunny Bread!