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Monday, December 27, 2010

Easy entertaining: Holiday wreath bread

How was your Christmas? Mine was filled with ham, turkey, gravlax, pavlova, fruit cake and more. It was a weekend of feasting, but as Master Six intoned to me solemnly on Christmas morning, "Christmas is not about presents. It's about spending time with your family."

And so there was eating and drinking, and then jumping on the trampoline and playing Snap with the kids. Everyone brought a dish for Christmas lunch, and I arrived with two holiday wreath breads, an idea I'd been fascinated by ever since I'd had it at Billy's Christmas in July dinner.

I used Billy's recipe which was adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver to which I added my own alterations, rolling the dough in sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for extra crunch and colour, and adding a tray of water at the bottom of the oven to give a crust. I also included the extra virgin olive oil that appears in the Jamie at Home recipe for this basic dough.

Holiday Wreath Bread
(based on recipes by A Table for Two and Jamie Oliver)

This is a great basic bread recipe that can be used to make pizza dough or bread. Shaping it into a holiday wreath bread is an easy way to impress your guests or host. You can roll the dough in any mix of sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds or sunflower seeds, but I think pumpkin seeds are the most festive, the green seeds looking just like leaves. Just before serving, pop the bread into a hot oven for a few minutes to warm.

1kg/ just over 2lbs strong bread flour (or use plain flour and 2 tablespoons of bread improver)
30g/1oz fresh yeast, 3 x 7g/¼oz sachets dried yeast or 4 teaspoons instant dried yeast granules
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
625ml/1 pint warm water
extra flour for dusting
sesame seeds and/or pumpkin seeds

  • If using a mixer with dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Turn on the mixer at a low speed and slowly add the water into the bowl. Continue mixing until all the ingredients have come together into a sticky dough.
  • If making the dough by hand, place the flour onto a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half the water into the well, add the yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil and use your hand to slowly bring the inner wall of flour into the centre. Slowly add the rest of the water until all the flour has been incorporated into a sticky dough.
  • Knead the dough on a clean floured surface for about five minutes until it starts to feel smooth and elastic. You may need to add a little more flour or water (flours vary and humidity can also affect doughs).
  • Place the dough into a large lightly floured bowl and cover with clingfilm or a tea towel for the first prove. Leave the bowl in a warm draught-free spot for about an hour. My foolproof way to prove dough: I place the bowl in a sink filled with 5-10cm of warm water.
  • When the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl and knead again on a floured surface. Split the dough into the size you prefer. I found the best size wreath is made using 2/3 of this dough, mainly because of the size of my oven and tray. Otherwise you can make two small wreaths by splitting the dough into two, or keep it whole for a giant wreath.
  • Shape the dough into a bun shape and then use your fingers to poke a hole into the middle to create a donut. Stretch the dough out into a large ring - I found holding it vertically and allowing gravity to pull down the dough was most effective,
  • Brush the surface of the dough lightly with water and then placed upside down on a tray covered with sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds. Gently move the dough around to make sure the surface is encrusted. You may wish to coat both sides with seeds (I did this on my next batch).
  • Gently manouevre the dough ring to a floured tray (I used an upturned pizza tray) and allow to rest for thirty minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 230C/445F.
  • After thirty minutes, the dough should have expanded and risen. Use a pair of scissors to make a deep-angled cut into the dough, and then lift the cut piece up and outward to create a fanned effect. Continue around the ring until complete.
  • Bake the dough for about 25-30 minutes or until the loaves have turned golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • Serve with lots of butter.

13 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/27/2010 01:23:00 am


  • At 12/27/2010 2:12 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    hehe I made this too for Christmas using Billy's recipe, I was surprised at how simple it was! Yours look great and I think I spy some French butter and truffle butter to go along with it... yum!

  • At 12/27/2010 7:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can imagine how soft and fluffy it is inside, while having a delicious nutty, crunchy layer on the outside. Hope you had a great Christmas!

  • At 12/27/2010 8:29 am, Blogger Gourmet Getaway said…

    What a great idea! It looks so festive and special! I don't know about everyone else but we have visitors expected all the way through until after New Years!

  • At 12/27/2010 10:13 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Go mumma Helen! Love how you've doused them in seeds. My Xmas was of the orphan kind due to the fam being in QLD and having to work, though I'll be up there next week to make up for it!

  • At 12/27/2010 10:15 am, Anonymous Serge Lescouarnec said…


    The crunchy outside versus soft inside does it.
    I have a piece coming up early Monday (US Eastern time) about a bread wreath by Gontran Cherrier with 8 flavors in it.
    Did you read the 10 Do's and Don'ts of a Christmas Holiday in Sydney on 'Serge the Concierge' by the way.

    Happy Holidays

    From snowed in New Jersey


  • At 12/27/2010 10:29 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Ooooo Christmasy... I love your tip for proving the dough; so ingenious! I'm so borrowing it next time when I have to deal with yeast.

    I'm sure you had tasty Christmas!

  • At 12/27/2010 11:02 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    The wreath bread is not only pretty to look at, it's also great for ripping apart and sharing. Along with some French and truffle butter - mmmm!

  • At 12/27/2010 11:07 am, Anonymous billy @ a table for two said…

    Bound to impress I tell ya! :) I also found another trick to form a hard crust while baking is spray the oven with water before baking apparently

  • At 12/27/2010 1:20 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Beautiful! I'd prefer an edible wreath to the tree kind anyday - particularly when sesame seeds are involved :)

  • At 12/27/2010 4:26 pm, Anonymous dana said…

    delicious!! these look great!!
    Merry christmas!!

  • At 12/27/2010 5:41 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    Fresh homemade bread really is special and yours looks so wonderful. Add the french butter and truffle butter you have and ooo la la, yummo!

  • At 12/27/2010 9:12 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    the truffle butter on that bread was sensational.

    Aaahhh.....nice to hear Master Six reflecting on the spirit of Christmas.

  • At 12/27/2010 9:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Merry Xmas!! Billys breads were awesommmeee and I bet yours were too! mmmmm taste like christmas


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