ears and I, we go a long way back. Right back to the time when I was a baby and it’s the same with our daughter. Except our bears aren’t the scary kinds but the soft furry, absolutely adorable and lovable kind of bears. One of my favourites as a child, and one that has survived all odds to this day is a Teddy Bear that I had very imaginatively named Teddy!
Teddy kept me company as a child, and comforted my sister when she was a toddler. All the while Teddy was kept in one piece by our mother who kept hand sewing various parts of his body that kept threatening to spill their straw filled innards thanks to being dragged around by the arms or legs. The TLC my mother lavished on it with her needle and thread ensured that when the time came, it was handed down to my daughter. Fifteen years later Teddy still lives in our house but time, and if he could speak would probably tell some great stories!
Another bear favourite of our daughter’s was (and still is) Winnie the Pooh and I have to confess that I have a soft spot for him too. As a child, Akshaya used to love hearing stories of Pooh’s love for “hunny” and his fear of “woozles and heffalumps”. She used to be particularly tickled by the fact that “Pooh was a bear with very little brain and long words bothered him”.
So it was no surprise that when we saw this bread, I knew I was going to bake it! The only problem was as Akshaya put it, “It’s so cute that I don’t have the heart to eat it!” The aroma of this bread baking was temptation enough and we eventually overcame our reservations on this count, and eat that bear we did!!
Now you might not think that this little bear that came out of my oven looks perfect and I agree that perhaps it could have looked a little better, but I can tell you it was made with a lot of love. There wasn’t too much I could do about the chocolate buttons and chips melting a bit. I could have used raisins like in the original recipe, but I had only golden ones and personally I thought the chocolate tasted much better.
The dough is very easy to make up and fashioning the bear is no rocket science. The baked Teddy Bear bread is an unusual way to serve the bread at a special meal and will bring you a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” when you unveil it at your table. It also does not disappoint in taste and texture.
You can do the kneading by hand, but I always use my food processor when I can.
In a small bowl, add sugar and yeast to the milk and stir till dissolved. Keep aside for 5 to 10 minutes till frothy.
Put the butter, salt and 2 cups flour into the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of time to blend. Add the yeast mixture and process until a dough forms. Add more flour in spoonsful, if necessary, and process/ knead till you have a soft and elastic dough which is not sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough around to coat it well with the oil. Cover and let rise until doubled. This should take about an hour.
Lightly punch the dough down. Turn it onto a lightly floured working surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Cut one portion into 2 portions, a one third portion and a two thirds portion. Form each portion into a smooth ball. The smaller bit will form the head and the larger the body. half; shape into balls.
Cut the other half into 7 equal portions and shape them all into smooth round balls. Take a greased baking sheet and place the head and body in the centre joined together. Flatten them slightly. Arrange 2 of the 7 balls on top of the head to form ears. Using the end of a wooden dowel (or even your thumb) make depressions in the ears.
Place 1 ball of the remaining 5 balls on the lower part of the face to make the nose. Flatten slightly and smoothen the edges of the “nose” onto the “face” so that it doesn’t separate during baking. Now arrange the remaining 4 balls to form the arms and legs of the teddy bear.
Cover the teddy bear with a cotton towel and allow it to rise for another hour till almost double. Brush the teddy bear with milk and place the chocolate buttons for eyes, nose, in the ear depressions and on the body. Use mini-chocolate chips on arms and legs to resemble claws.
Bake the teddy bear at 190C (375F) for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove the bread from the pan and cool on wire racks.
Slice it and eat, if you can bring yourself to do so! This loaf cuts into about 12 slices.
This month Michelle suggested "Family Traditions", since everyone would be preparing for the Christmas season. We don't celebrate Christmas, but I thought it would be a nice change to start a bread baking tradition of my own every Decemeber, one of trying out something I've never done before! And so my "Teddy Bear" bear.
As I just mentioned now, we don’t celebrate Christmas but who wouldn't like to celebrate food and this is a great season as any to do so. So from my next post onwards, I will be doing a “Seven Days Of Christmas” set of posts with a slight difference. I will be doing a total of 7 posts, one every two days, featuring foods that are normally made/ baked in various parts of India for Christmas.