Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spidey Loaf

I found a spider in my oven. Fortunately, it was a loaf of bread. Yup, I got into the Halloween spirit and baked up a not-so-spooky spider.

For the eyes, I used apricots, but any dried fruit would do. Or you could even do a design with the seeds to create eyes. And those seeds? I used poppy seeds, brown sesame seeds, and toasted sesame seeds - but really anything would do. Or nothing. I think this would look just as good without the texture of the seeds. Totally up to you.

The loaf was just slightly sweet from the honey, with richness from the yogurt. Since yogurts vary in thickness (and thus the amount of liquid you're adding) you might need to adjust the amount of flour needed. For shaped breads like this, I prefer a slightly lower hydration than my standard bread so it's easier to shape and there's more rise and less spread in the oven.

Spidey Loaf

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 to 3 1/2 cups (13 1/2 to 15 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Eggwash (1 egg beaten 1ith 1 tablespoon water)
Poppy seeds, as needed
Sesame seeds, as needed
1 dried apricot or (other dried fruit)

Put the water, yeast, honey, and yogurt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk until the honey has dissolved. Add the 3 cups of flour and salt. Knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic.The dough should completely gather around the hook and the bowl should be clean. If there's a little "foot" of dough clinging to the bottom of the bowl, add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough gathers up that foot into the doughball.

Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the oil is completely incorporated into the dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on the sheet.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead it briefly. Cut off a piece of dough that's about 1/4 of the dough, form it into a rectangle, and roll it to about 3 inches wide by 12 inches long. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, trim the edges, then cut it into 4 strips - this will form the 8 legs.

Lay the strips on the baking sheet to form the legs of the spider. Stretch them longer, if you like or trim them so they're shorter - it's your spider, so make it look however you like.

Take the trimmed pieces, and add them to the remaining unused piece of dough. Divide that piece into two, with once piece about 1/3 of the dough and the other piece 2/3 of the dough. Form those pieces into to rounds, and arrange them on top of the legs you formed to make the head and body of the spider. Make sure the two pieces are touching each other. Adjust the legs so they look the way you want them to.

Cover the completed spider with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Meannwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover the spider. If you're using several types of seeds, it's best to eggwash one part of the spider at a time. I eggwashed the legs first and sprinkled them with poppy seeds, then I eggwashed the body and sprinkled that with brown sesame seeds.

Before you sprinkle the head section, cut the dried fruit (if needed) to the shape you want and apply them to the eggwashed head section. Then sprinkle the head with the seeds you choose. I used a combination of toasted sesame seeds and poppy seeds for the head.

Make a vertical snip to create the mouth, and if you like, make small snips at the ends of the front feet for a little extra character.

Bake at 350 degrees until the bread is nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven so it bakes evenly during baking, if necessary.

Transfer the bread, still on the parchment, to a rack to cool. Once the bread is thoroughly cooled, remove the parchment.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.