Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Bread Baking Babes Make Bread Dough Cornucopia!

A Horn'o'Plenty, cornucopia represents the bounty of the harvest season and can often be found in American Thanksgiving scenes. Bread Baking Babe Susan challenged us to make one at home, out of bread dough. How cool is that? Let me tell you, it has been far too long since I have played with dough and my skills, or lack thereof, reflect that fact.
But I did manage a passable cornucopia, which now sits proudly on my dining room table. And if I can do it, you can too! See Susan's post for step by step photos, and if you want to be a Bread Baking Buddy this month, bake up one of your own and post it by November 29th. See Susan for more details.
This Cornucopia has been Yeastspotted!
Okay, ready for coaching on cornucopia construction? Let's commence.

Before mixing the dough, prepare your form. Roll a rectangle of poster board or other light but sturdy cardboard into a cone, securing it with tape. Trim it so the mouth is even and it more or less stands up straight (a little off-kilter is fine).

Cover the cone with foil. (The foil is optional, but it helps the form release more easily from the baked dough.) Stuff the form with crumpled foil or paper to help it maintain its shape. Foil is firmer. To keep the stuffing from falling out, I stapled a piece of parchment paper across the mouth.

Spray the form with baking spray or oil. Stand it up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Now mix the dough(s). I suggest refrigerating it immediately, removing small pieces to work with as you need them.

Preheat the oven to 360F (180C).

To form the rim, roll two strands of dough and twist them together like rope. For my 12-inch cornucopia, each strand was 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter.

Wrap the rope around the bottom of the upright form overlapping the ends and pressing them together slightly.

Roll another strand of dough, again 1/2 to 3/4 inch, tapering the ends. Coil it continuously around the form until you run out. Then repeat with more pieces, overlapping the tapered ends slightly. I didn't worry about making all of the joins in the back, as I think the overlaps add to the rustic appeal of the piece. Make sure each tier lies on top of the one underneath it with no gaps (although small gaps are okay; they will fill in as the dough expands a little during baking).

When you get to the top of the cone, continue the coil just a bit further and curve it a little to form the tail.

Carefully lay the cornucopia down on the baking sheet so that the rim seam is on the underside.

Make an egg wash by lightly beating together one whole egg, a splash of water, and a pinch of salt. Brush the cornucopia lightly and evenly with the egg wash, reaching as far to the underside as you can without lifting it up.

Bake initially for 30 – 45 minutes. This should set the dough enough to hold its shape when the form is removed. Removing the form helps the inside dry out much faster. Tongs are helpful if you can't grab it well. At this point, or any further point in the baking, if the cornucopia has reached the color you want it, cover it with foil , leaving the mouth open.

Return it to the oven to bake for another 30 – 45 minutes. Then turn off the oven, leave door slightly ajar, and let the cornucopia stay in there until it is quite dry inside, another hour or two. If your oven cools down very quickly, you may need to leave it turned on at a low temperature instead of turning it off completely. The exact baking/drying time will depend on the size of your piece.

 Light Yeasted Decorative Dough
(Adapted from Bread, A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman.)

Yield: 1500 g (more than enough for one 12-inch and one 6-inch cornucopia)


    * 875 g flour

    * 481 g water

    * 3.5 g (1-1/8 t.) instant yeast

    * 13 g (2-1/3 t.) salt

    * 44 g milk powder

    * 39 g sugar

    * 44 g butter, softened


   1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, or a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.

   2. Mix on low mixer speed, or by hand, until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

   3. Continue mixing on medium speed, or by hand, until the gluten is very well-developed.

   4. Use the dough immediately, working with small portions at a time and keeping the remainder of the dough refrigerated.

Dark Yeasted Decorative Dough
(Adapted from Bread, A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman.)

Feel free to scale this down, since you'll only need a small amount if using it as an accent. However, small amounts may be difficult to mix effectively in a stand mixer.
Yield: 500 g


    * 276 g flour

    * 15 g sifted cocoa powder

    * 162 g water

    * 1.2 g (generous 1/3 t.) instant yeast

    * 4 g (2/3 t.) salt

    * 15 g milk powder

    * 13 g sugar

    * 15 g butter, softened

The method is the same as for the light dough above.

The Bread Baking Babes