Our April bread at the Bread Baking Babes is an Olive Oil Wreath chosen by Karen. It’s a lovely ring shaped pull-apart bread with decorative cuts like Pain de Epi. This makes it perfect for a festive table centerpiece. The taste of olive oil in it sets apart this fruity soft and crusty bread. It is delicious spread with butter or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with dinner. You can also tear it apart, split it, and use it for sandwiches.
You know olive oil and bread is a marriage made in heaven, if you’ve tried it. Ask the Italians. They love drizzling olive oil in their bread. Now think of olive oil in bread and you know it has to be good. The better the quality of the olive oil used, the better this bread will sing! I love making decorative bread as you can see from my bread archives. Check out my Epi d’Bleh Wreath with caramelized onions.
Karen used a recipe adapted from the book Della Fattoria Bread by Kathleen Weber. Her recipe uses a biga. A biga is a preferment or starter made with flour, water, and a tiny amount of yeast. This is allowed to sit at room temperature to slowly ferment and develop flavor.
I modified Karen’s recipe a bit for personal reasons. The original recipe asks for a large quantity of biga than required for one loaf of bread. So I adjusted mine to make enough for just one wreath. April is the height of summer here where I live. Leaving the biga at room temperature overnight would mean a very sour starter. So I sat my biga at room temperature to rise, for about 3 hours. Then I refrigerated it overnight and bringing it back to room temperature next morning. I also reduced the yeast and salt to suit me.
This Olive Oil Wreath is easy enough to bake. Cutting the “leaves” might require some patience and practice but it’s not difficult. Use a pair of scissors that open really wide to make good cuts in the dough. Dipping them in the flour before cutting the dough also helps. Hold the scissors angled at between 45 to 60 degrees and cut into the top of the dough ring. Cut almost all the way through and pull the cut piece to one side. This video gives you a good idea on how to do this (about 4 mins into it).
This recipe makes a largish bread wreath. You could divide the dough into two and make smaller wreaths if you prefer.
Olive Oil Wreath
For the Biga
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flou
- 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- 1/3 cup water
For Final Dough
- All of the biga
- 1 cup water more if required
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
To Make the Biga (previous day)
- Mix together the ingredients for the biga in a bowl with a fork or dough whisk. It will be sticky. Cover the bowl loosely and let it sit ate room temperature for 8 to 15 hours, depending on ambient temperature.
- April is the height of summer here where I live. Leaving the biga at room temperature overnight would mean a very sour starter. So I made the biga and let it sit at room temperature to rise, for about 3 hours. Then I refrigerated it overnight and brought it back to room temperature next morning.
Make the Olive Oil Wreath (next morning)
- This is best done by machine but kneading by hand works too. It just takes a bit of effort. Put the biga, water, olive oil and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low for about 30 seconds, until the biga is broken up.
- Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the bowl with the biga. Knead together, adding as much water is necessary, until you have a smooth and pliable dough. Place it into an oiled bowl and loosely cover. Let the dough rise till more than double, for about 2 hours or so.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and gently knead to deflate it. Gather up the edges and shape the dough into a smooth and tight ball. Flip the ball and place it seam side down on the work surface. Push the dough against the work surface in a circular motion to tighten the top. Let rest for 10 minutes.
- Make a small hole in the centre of the dough ball with your fingers. Still using your fingers enlarge the hole gently, without tearing the dough. If the dough resists, let it rest for another 10 minutes before proceeding. Enlarge the hole until the dough has the basic shape to make the wreath. Place the circle of dough on greased or parchment lined 14-inch pizza pan or large baking tray. Cover loosely and let it rise till it passes the finger dent test, about an hour or so.
- Dip your scissors in flour before cutting the dough. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour. Using scissors that open quite wide, cut partially through the dough at a 45 degree angle from the top. Cut almost all the way through but not completely. Move the cut piece to the outside like for Pain d'Epi to form the wreath. Do not deflate the dough. Make more similar cuts at equal distance (about 2.5 to 3 inches apart) from one another, moving in one direction. Move each piece to the outside. I usually cut 4 quarters then in between them to get equidistant cuts.
- Bake using a pizza stone or inverted baking pan, in a preheated oven at 200C (400F) for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and let cool slightly before serving.