Baking Like the Babes: Russian Chrysanthemum Bread

When you bake bread every week, or every-other, you lose the ability to really… blog anything interesting about it. Oh, yes, this week the dough had a GREAT gluten! This week we used a little more White Whole Wheat, and a pumpernickel instead of a blended rye…. Yeah, we know we have the ability to gabble on endlessly about that sort of thing, but at the end of the day, we love you too much to expose you to our sheer nerdishness. I mean, we’re the people who peruse the King Arthur Flour catalogue over breakfast! So, we bake – a great deal – and it’s usually wholemeal bread which we use for absolutely everything – toast to sandwiches. Sometimes we’re inspired to branch out by seeing images of some wonderful thing, and that was the case this time. Blogging Baker Babe Lien is rounding up the Bread Baking Babes this month, and while we’re rather short on babe-ishness around here this week, we happily played along with this gorgeous looking bread.

Whole Wheat Maple Bread 6

Russian Chrysanthemum bread seems like one of those holiday breads that is just perfect for this time of year. The simple dough calls for using strong flour, which is simply a high gluten flour, and the recipe follows. The filling for the original bread Lien (and many others) made is savory, which you know we’ll have to try before winter is over, but you know we mavericks can never simply follow a recipe properly the first time — we made ours of tartly sweet cranberries and clementines with dark chocolate — basically leftovers from the cranberry sauce T. had just made, with shards of dark chocolate thrown in. It is a TASTY filling – not terribly sweet, not too tart, smooth and richly chocolaty. T. thought this looked like a pull-apart bread to us, but a lot of the Baking Babes – and D. – thought it made more sense to actually slice it. This bread is open to a great deal of variation – it’ll be interesting to see where it lands in our whimsy next! And we do look forward to trying it in a springform pan, or with some more flower-y shapes.

500 g strong flour/bread flour (with some extra for dusting the board when you roll out the dough)
7 g dry instant yeast
125 ml milk, lukewarm (1/2 cup)
125 ml kefir or yogurt (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
90 ml olive oil (3 oz.)

We used whole wheat flour and instead of sugar, maple syrup. We also forgot the yogurt and skipped out on the egg in the glaze and in the dough, as several guests this weekend are vegan. We’ll give it another try at some point as written.

Whole Wheat Maple Bread 9

When making her bread, Babe Elle wisely rolled her dough all out and used a biscuit cutter to get the perfectly sized rounds. Would this have made our lives much easier? Oh… sure. *cough* Maybe. Probably. However, D rolling the dough out individually suited the graduated sizes of the petals on his mums.

Whole Wheat Maple Bread 10
Whole Wheat Maple Bread 11

Overfilling the petals is really the worst thing you can do, with a loose filling – you need just a schmear of filling to show, and just enough so that it won’t squish out when you’ve pinched the dough together… it should stay in place, allegedly. T. started filling with a tablespoon initially, but switched to about a teaspoon full of filling – enough to taste, not to make a meal on (sadly). And the round of dough is simply folded in half and then the folded edges pinched together to make a petal. This would be a great job for small children with clean hands and a need desire to avoid other work and participate in the making of the treat.

Whole Wheat Maple Bread 14

We topped our bread with sugar crystals, colored with saffron, just to add a little crunch and color. Though T. really did kind of over-do it on the filling, the dough turned out to be very excited about proofing, which made the whole thing a bit more forgiving than it could have been. The tender, toothsome dough baked up looking golden-brown and delicious and was really well received by eaters of all ages this past weekend.

Whole Wheat Maple Bread 16
Whole Wheat Maple Bread 18

It’s too easy to be busy lately, and the holiday throws its own craziness into the mix of the daily things we have to do. We’d lately forgotten the fun of baking with others, so we’re grateful for the Babes for being the first to try this easy – yet complex – frilly bread. Can’t wait to try it again!

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