Friday, November 04, 2011

A Star is Born (uh, Baked)

Now that the air is nippy and the fall color has turned the trees to flame, the urge to start baking for the holidays has hit. Natasha, my dear friend (but not a Bread Baking Babe...that's Natashya) loaned me a wonderful book called Festive Baking - Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German, and Austrian Traditions by Sarah Kelly Iaia.

It really started my creative juices flowing, even though many of the recipes are for things related to Christmas, not the fall. One recipe that called to my crafty side was in the bread section (of course it was). It's called Geflochtener Weihnachtsstern or Braided Christmas Star. The dough called for is a typical rich sweet dough flavored with lemon zest. I decided to go with something more in keeping with autumn and harvest...Anadama bread. I've made it before but this time I used regular corn meal and less molasses and I like it better this way.

The finished bread was soft and mellow with just a hint of molasses. It kept the shape of the star really well, too. It goes well with hearty fall soups or stews and makes wonderful toast.

Once I'm back from Seattle I plan on making French Toast with any bread that is still around. The start shape was barely contained by the half sheet baking sheet, which is a lot of bread, plus I baked the other half of the dough into a nice loaf and it made something line 16 slices for sandwiches (or French Toast since Sweetie loves French Toast.) I used three of the 'arms' of the star today to make s small batch of stuffing to go with the grilled chicken and asparagus we had for dinner. It made excellent stuffing. What a versatile bread!

Hang on to this recipe in case you want to bake a star for the holidays. It really is easy if you know how to braid, yet looks super impressive. You could probably even use thawed frozen bread dough if creating bread dough isn't our thing. Just be sure to glaze it with the egg wash so that it is that gorgeous golden brown.

Anadama Bread and Star
Star shaping from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia
makes two loaves or one loaf and one big star

1/2 cup regular corn meal
2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup molasses
6 tablespoons butter, softened,
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups (about) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for greasing
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

In a bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 1 cup of the cold water. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring another cup of water to a boil. Add cornmeal mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, about 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in the molasses and the butter.
Add the whole wheat flour and stir until all is combined. Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric stand mixer and cool to tepid. (Or transfer to a mixing bowl large enough to mix the dough by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.)

Add the 1 cup sourdough starter to the mixing bowl with the tepid cornmeal mixture. Mix on low speed with dough-hook attachment ( or a wooden spoon) for several seconds. With dough hook in place on the stand mixer add flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing for several seconds after each addition. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue mixing until dough completely comes away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Oil a sheet of plastic wrap and loosely cover dough. Allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (At this point I punched the dough down, recovered it, and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day I let the dough warm up and then did the shaping.)

Lightly grease 1- 9 x 4 inch loaf pan. Line a sheet pan with silicon mat or parchment for the star. Press down dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape one piece loosely into a loaf and place in the prepared pan pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until loaf has doubled.

For star, take second half of dough (all the dough remaining) and divide it into six equal pieces (using a scale really helps with getting the pieces about the same size). Set one piece aside. Each of the other five pieces is used to make one of the star 'arms'.

Take one of the pieces and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each of those three pieces into a rope about 8 inches long, with a taper at one end. Join the three ropes at the tapered end and braid the ropes. Repeat with each of the next 4 pieces.

Place the braided pieces on the prepared baking sheet with the tapered end pointing out, to shape a five-point star. The ends at the middle should touch and so pinch them together.

Take the last piece of dough and roll into a long rope, about 20 inches long. Starting at the center of the star, wind the rope around in a spiral over the center of the star. Tuck the end under the spiral.

Cover the star with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise, until doubled in bulk. When almost to that point, preheat the oven.

When oven is fully preheated, brush the star and the loaf with a wash of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Make sure that the wash goes into the crevices of the star. Slash the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. Bake loaves for 35 minutes to 1 hour, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Star may take a shorter baking time than the loaf. That's OK.

Allow bread to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire cooling rack. Serve warm if possible.

This bread is mellow and soft, barely sweet from the molasses and makes really good toast.


  1. Wow that looks really impressive. Would make a great festive centerpiece. I've never seen a bread shaped quite like that.

  2. OH! This is beautiful! Can you imagine doing some sort of a sweet roll with this, and piping on a bit of sugar on the top and serving it for a brunch? I love braided breads and mine always look slightly lumpy and dorky. You have the touch!

    Well, I've always known you were a star.

    (... must find that book!)

  4. Katie, I'd never seen one like this either but it actually is pretty simple if you can braid bread dough :) Would make a great centerpiece...could even put small candles in it.
    Tanita, the sweet version sounds so yum. The secret of the braids is to do it loosely with some space built in for the dough to expand into.
    Tanna, You are sweet. It is a GREAT book for lots of holiday baking with a particularly great section on cookies.

  5. I love that! Really great braiding you got there wow!

  6. I bow before you, oh queen of bread shaping! That is the most amazing loaf ever!!