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Chris Amirault

Decorative Breads

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Over in my foodblog, several members asked questions about this bread sculpture:

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I'm wowed by that bread with the wine bottle included - anything else you can say about that?

I too would like to know more about that wine bottle bread. Way back upthread, Mitch (a.k.a. boulak) offered to tell more about the baking school ovens and answer other questions about the process. Since the blog will be closing soon, here's my request to him to please start a thread telling more about the school and the gear! Let's start with: how do they bake that bread with the wine bottle, without overheating the bottle and/or scorching the label? And how do the decorative bread doughs differ from regular doughs?

I thought I'd get this started. What tips, ideas, and recipes do people have?

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Thanks for starting this, Chris. I'm so impressed with decorative breads. One hotel restaurant I've visited a few times used to have fantastic bread animal sculptures - fish, birds, lizards, with appropriate scales and feathers snipped into the dough. We assumed they were for show only, of course, but they looked as though they could be eaten. Although I doubt I'll ever be at the decorative-bread-making stage (I'm still working on keeping a starter healthy) I'd love to know more about how this sort of art is done, how the dough is different, and how long it can last.

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A discussion of decorative breads is a great idea. This discipline has evolved radically and exponentially in the past five to six years. The fact that the Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie and the National Bread and Pastry Championship include bread centerpieces cannot be overlooked. There are several sub sets to consider: traditional breads that have unique shapes, celebration breads (with or without religious connotations), decorative breads, and artistic breads. The first three are made with yeasted (live) doughs and are often eaten in addition to being displayed. There are some versions that have almost become almost a cliche such as the cornucopia, wreath, etc. However, when these are executed with taste and good judgement, they remain classical.

Artistic breads are made with dead doughs (no yeast) and are used for decoration only, typically as centerpieces. I have the pleasure of working daily with Ciril Hitz, whom I consider to be the world leader in this particular discipline. The wine bottle bread upthread was his demo for a class project at Johnson & Wales. The dough is a live dough with bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and buckwheat flour as well as water, salt, yeast, etc. This dough has many applications, left only to the baker's imagination. This project is part of the course requirements for the advanced bread class. In addition, they will fabricate other decorative pieces and then design and complete an original artistic bread centerpiece. The good news is that the information needed to understand this medium is available on DVD. The website for the information on the DVDs is www.breadhitz.com Ciril's schedule includes teaching a class at King Arthur Flour in VT in December, The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC in March, and a demo at COPIA in California in March. He is also scheduled to present at the World Pastry Forum in Phoenix again next July. There is also the possibility of a class next spring at the Notter School in Orlando.

To answer the questions about the wine bottle. The bottle of unopened wine is place into the piece after baking. We use an empty wine bottle of the same size wrapped in baking parchment and baked into place. When the bread is barely warm, we remove the empty one and replace it with the unopened bottle. It is critical to let the dough cool on a rack and allow for full circulation when displayed. Otherwise, mold and other deterioration will occur. With the proper environment and care, the pieces can last for a month or more. This dough differs from others in that we use a dough conditioner to enable the shaping of the pieces immediately after mixing to facilitate shaping. In a dough without conditioners, there is a buildup of carbon dioxide that can make shaping difficult and compromise the clarity and definition of the final product.

If anyone is interested, I would attempt (with help, Chris) to post photos of the different disciplines. If you have any other questions on bread or the program at the school, it would be my pleasure to address them.

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Thank you, Boulak, for describing the process of making the wine bottle bread in such clear detail.

Indeed, I would appreciate very much if you could, perhaps, share with us a basic recipe for 1) artistic dead dough bread and 2) live dough with bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and buckwheat flour as well as water, salt, yeast, etc.

For artistic breads, if it is to be glazed, would you recommend an egg white glaze or (since it's not to be eaten) a non=edible glaze?

TIA!

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...... If you buy the Bakery Book(s) from the Richemont school in Lucerne Switzerland (Sorry all you Francophiles...the best bakery school in the world ..bar none) you will find all the techniques you need...Oh.. and the idea with the bottle was created by the ex-head baker there( Herr Restori-now retired at the school in the late 70s). : :smile:

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Tepee,

First, let me say that I clicked on your site and enjoyed it very much. Your desserts are most intruiging to my Western sensibilities. I also appreciate your use of whole grains.

To glaze the artistic pieces, we use a food grade spray shellac after the pieces have been baked and cooled.

A basic dead rye dough to start playing with is 3 Kg of medium rye flour and 2 Kg of simple syrup (cool). Mix with a dough hook until incorporated. Keep covered or wrap tighly when not in use.

A basic live dough is 2 Kg. low protein bread flour, 100g medium rye flour, 1.3 Kg water, 40g fresh yeast, and 30g salt. You can play with that and begin to exchange flours and grains within that framework. Depending on the flour available to you, you might need to add a small percentage of shortening to gain extensibility and to make the dough a little more pliable; the amount of shortening used is quite small. Also remember, with different flours in different parts of the world, water is variable. Mix on low speed with a hook to incorporate. Mix for about 4 minutes on second speed. Primary fermentation of one hour. Divide, preshape, rest dough, shape, and proof covered for approximately one hour (we put the larger pieces inside a large plastic bag and moisten with a spray bottle. Bake at 450 degrees F with light steam in the beginning. Vent at the end of the bake. For more strength, you could preferment up to 25% of the flour. If you look at the wine bottle piece, you will notice that it is generously dusted with medium rye. The amount of dusting varies from project to project and whether the object is to highlight or accent. Us a very fine sieve.

An economical way to find out what Ciril is doing and explore this medium is to buy the home maker's DVD. It is about $40 US and is available at his website www.breadhitz.com It contains all of the recipes, but fewer of the projects. The more advanced projects are in the full professional set. There were some posts on the WPF thread last summer from individuals who purchased the full set and were quite excited with the content. Another good source for information on decorative pieces is the wonderful book by Jeffry Hamelman: Bread: A Bakers Book of Recipes and Techniques, published by Wiley.

I hope this is helpful and is enough information to get you going. Your website suggests to me that you will do a great job.

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Many thanks, boulak, for your very kind words about my humble site. I only hope I'll be able to do justice to your excellent information.

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wow that's beautiful.. I hope I can .. go to a bread school some time.. more than anything else, i love baking bread... it'd be fantastic if I get a chance to formally learn how to do it. Up to this point I've just learned on my own- minus some bread seminars that I've joined...

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I understand that typically this is done only for decor, but could you make a good crusty artisan bread wth this type of display? I am in an Advanced Yeast Class and would like to work on this type of project next week, any ideas? We have free range for this class and are encouraged to work on any new and challenging areas. Formulas are welcome, pictures even more! Thanks for bringing this topic up! Baking and Pastry Student- Shawn <><

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I understand that typically this is done only for decor, but could you make a good crusty artisan bread wth this type of display?  I am in an Advanced Yeast Class and would like to work on this type of project next week, any ideas?  We have free range for this class and are encouraged to work on any new and challenging areas.  Formulas are welcome, pictures even more!  Thanks for bringing this topic up!  Baking and Pastry Student- Shawn <><

You can make pieces from bread dough that is suitable for service. Doughs with more hydration are more difficult to shape and therefore are less likely to maintain crisp definition. Try shaping deorative breads using a dough hydrated at 60%. 90% bread flour, 10% whole wheat flour, 2% salt, and 2% yeast. Desired dough temperature is 75 to 78 degrees Farenheit. Bulk fermentation of 1 hour. Bake with steam, and bake to color. Shaping is only limited by your imagination.


Edited by boulak (log)

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I hope that you will take the time to click on the links of some photos of a table that I did with Ciril Hitz at the 2005 World Pastry Forum. The rooster, platter, and wine bottle were part of Ciril's class. The rooster is made of dead dough; the wine bottle and platter are made from the same live decorating dough mentioned upthread. The rest of the pieces were demonstrated by me during an evening session, and are made from the dough described in my previous post. I think that the two styles merge and complement each other very well

edited to add: I have tried many times to post photos and this is the closest I have gotten -- it's really a huge step for me. Before any grumpy 'bears' go off on me about whether or not I have read the instructions, let me say that I have and it's still difficult. If the photos prove interesting to the membership, I will work diligently to post photos next time, and not links.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

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Thank you for the great pics, they are very informative and inspiring. I understand what you are saying about the wet doughs, and will try to use your percentages for a dough to work with. Your time is appreciated, hopefully my prof/chef will have some experience with this type of work. I'll try to remember to bring a digital camera to class, just in case! Thanks again, Shawn <><

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Congrats, boulak...you've made the first step to posting pix! And, what inspiring pictures they are! :wub:

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Great stuff, Mitch! Is that challah I spy? Standard dough or are you doing something different here?

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Great stuff, Mitch! Is that challah I spy? Standard dough or are you doing something different here?

Yes, that is Challah on the table. The starfish, a five braid, and a six braid are visible. I prefer Challah with a sweeter profile, so I use osmotolerant yeast to compennsate for the amount of sugar/honey used. Other than that, the dough is quite standard. I double egg wash; once before the proof, and again just prior to the bake.

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I use osmotolerant yeast to compennsate for the amount of sugar/honey used. 

I've never heard of this before. Would you mind explaining what osmotolerant yeast is, and where one can buy it? .....and how does it compensate for the amount of sugar/honey used?

P.S. Those are incredible looking breads!!!!!!!!!!!

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Oh, shoot, this takes my breath away. I'm in love with the roses, then there's the red ones whoo hooo hooo. Just beyond amazing beautiful. Not to slightly mention that you are sharing how to's as well. Where's the 'I'm fainting' smilie face?? :rolleyes::laugh:

Thank you so much, Mitch, for sharing this wonderful wonderful inspiring stuff. Wow I can totally smell it through the monitor. :raz:


Edited by K8memphis (log)

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I use osmotolerant yeast to compennsate for the amount of sugar/honey used. 

I've never heard of this before. Would you mind explaining what osmotolerant yeast is, and where one can buy it? .....and how does it compensate for the amount of sugar/honey used?

P.S. Those are incredible looking breads!!!!!!!!!!!

When the level of sugar(s) in a yeasted dough exceeds 5% of the weight of the flour, fermentation can become sluggish. When the sugar content surpasses 10% - 12% of the weight of the flour, fermentation is markedly slowed due to osmotic pressure, which, simply put, is the competition of the sugar and yeast for moisture. Technically speaking, osmosis is defined as "the tendency of a solvent to pass through the wall of a living cell, into a solution of igher concentration, so as the equalize concentrations on both sides of the membrane." Yeast cells are living cells with a thin membrane. When the moisture is diverted to the sugar( a hygroscopic ingredient), the resulting condition is known as osmotic pressure.The moisture normally permits food (sugars) to penetrate the cell walls of the yeast. Previously, bakers would increase the amount of yeast in a formulation and/or use a sponge to compensate for the osmotic pressure on the yeast cells. Now, it is more common in the industry to see osmotolerant yeast in use. This sensitivity to sugars varies from strain to strain of yeast. The yeast with most tolearance of a high sugar content is known as osmotolerant due to the fact that it is tolerant of osmotic pressure.

If the preceding paragraph appears a bit pedantic and exceeds the socially acceptable use of the word osmotolerant in a paragraph, I apologize, but I wanted to provide some background. SAF (LeSaffre) sells a product known as "gold label." It is vacuum packed, osmotolerant, instant active yeast. Unopened, it is guaranteed fresh for one year. Open and stored wrapped in the refrigerator it remains viable for weeks (I believe their recommendation is 7 to 10 days). Many food distributors and especially bakery distributors carry the product or have access to it. LeSaffre has a history of being gracious with samples to bakers. A segment of the industry has shifted away from fresh yeast to instant active (osmotolerant and regular "red label") due to the shelf life of the product and the resulting consistency in baked goods.

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Thanks to this inspiring thread and, especially, Mitch.......here's my first attempt at making a wreath. This measures only 14-inches in diameter. Poinsettia at 11 o'clock and christmas roses, holly and mistletoe at the bottom. It tooked forever to dry, so I increased the oven temperature. :sad: Big mistake...cracks started to appear. I'd like to try making a full-sized one (20-inch plus?)...if only I can find a box big enough to fit the big mama. :wink:

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Edited by Tepee (log)

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That's really cool Tepee. I'm always impressed and inspired by your efforts and results. I'm in Paris for the day using a Euro keyboard in a cyber cafe, so I'll keep this very short. I wish you continued success and pleasure working with decorative doughs.

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So, this year I decided to play with a couple of decorative breads from Jeffrey Hamelman's book. Fun!

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Edited by Tepee (log)

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Artistic breads are made with dead doughs (no yeast) and are used for decoration only, typically as centerpieces. I have the pleasure of working daily with Ciril Hitz, whom I consider to be the world leader in this particular discipline. The wine bottle bread upthread was his demo for a class project at Johnson & Wales. The dough is a live dough with bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, and buckwheat flour as well as water, salt, yeast, etc. This dough has many applications, left only to the baker's imagination
Tepee,

First, let me say that I clicked on your site and enjoyed it very much.  Your desserts are most intruiging to my Western sensibilities.  I also appreciate your use of whole grains.

To glaze the artistic pieces, we use a food grade spray shellac after the pieces have been baked and cooled.

A basic dead rye dough to start playing with is 3 Kg of medium rye flour and 2 Kg of simple syrup (cool).  Mix with a dough hook until incorporated.  Keep covered or wrap tighly when not in use.

A basic live dough is 2 Kg. low protein bread flour, 100g medium rye flour, 1.3 Kg water, 40g fresh yeast, and 30g salt.  You can play with that and begin to exchange flours and grains within that framework.  Depending on the flour available to you, you might need to add a small percentage of shortening to gain extensibility and to make the dough a little more pliable; the amount of shortening used is quite small.  Also remember, with different flours in different parts of the world, water is variable.  Mix on low speed with a hook to incorporate.  Mix for about 4 minutes on second speed.  Primary fermentation of one hour.  Divide, preshape, rest dough, shape, and proof covered for approximately one hour (we put the larger pieces inside a large plastic bag and moisten with a spray bottle.  Bake at 450 degrees F with light steam in the beginning.  Vent at the end of the bake.  For more strength, you could preferment up to 25% of the flour.  If you look at the wine bottle piece, you will notice that it is generously dusted with medium rye.  The amount of dusting varies from project to project and whether the object is to highlight or accent.  Us a very fine sieve....

I have a question. I need to make some little tidbits to eat as part of a larger exhibit. They need to look like wheat stalks, like little braidy looking little wheaty things. Just the illusion of wheat of course. There will be a vase with wheat stalks on the table so something just to further the idea. So I thought about messing around with pretzel dough but then I thought I could do a decorative centerpiece too.

So if the centerpiece with the bottle upthread was made with a yeasted dough, what is the advantage to using an un-yeasted dough for a centerpiece? The recipe listed is with rye flour and simple syrup for the dead dough. Is rye flour better to use than wheat?

If you were making a little tidbit to eat what would you make it out of?? Pretzel-y or bready or what formula if you have one??? How it looks is more important than how it tastes but it needs to be tasty.

Any and all help/ideas welcome.

I would love to get the cd's and stuff but this is for early May so I'm just gonna wing it with y'all's input/help.

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