By now I’m sure there’s no one who regularly reads (or even once in a while) my blog who hasn’t realised that I love baking bread. If there’s one thing I do like more than baking bread then it is baking unusually shaped bread. For me it brings together some things I really enjoy – baking bread, getting creative with the dough and the aroma of bread in the oven.
So whenever I do come across an unusual way of shaping bread dough, I suaully make a note of it to try out whenever I can. This time it’s a Sunflower Bread which seems to pop up on a lot of Italian food blogs under the name of Pane Girasole, French food blogs as Pain Tournesol and some Eastern European blogs as well, under other names. Girasole (in French) and Tournesol (in Italian) mean “Sunflower”, by the way.
Shaping breads into patterns or designs inspired by nature is something that goes way back in time, shaping bread/ loaves into flowers have attained significance and come to stand for various aspects of human life such as fertility, purity, love, etc and have been adapted into social and religious celebrations especially in cultures all around the world, especially those that have always baked and celebrated with bread. So while flower shaped breads have been around for a very long time, I don’t know if shaping breads into sunflowers is something traditional or something that someone was inspired to try out one fine day.
I came across sunflower shaped breads a long time back on Pinterest and have baked this this twice before. A couple of sites on which I came across this bread were in languages that I couldn’t understand though Google Translate did help some, I couldn’t figure out a couple of the ingredients. The recipes had very detailed step-by-step instructions on shaping the bread accompanied by images so that was a big help. I needed a somewhat rich dough to start with so I went to one of my trusted bread sources to look for one.
I have found King Arthur Flour very reliable with their recipes and detailed descriptions/ instructions (especially if you also follow their blog) and decided to use a somewhat adapted version of their Korovai (Ukrainian Wedding Bread). The Korovai is celebratory bread and typically made from an enriched dough which is fashioned into the most beautifully decorated breads, some of which are true works of art!
The dough comes together quite easily whether you knead it by hand or machine. It is important to knead it well to a soft and pliable dough. What will take a little time is the shaping. Its not really difficult to do, but it would be good to work methodically and quickly or you will have the outer ring of “petals” sitting for a long time and rising a bit before you’ve managed to fashion the second row of petals.
If you understand things better when they’re explained visually like me, then this is an excellent video on how to shape a Sunflower Bread. Its worth watching before getting started.
This bread is definitely a winner with or without the sunflower shape. Add the sunflower shape and you have a stunner – a bread that’s soft, flaky, slightly buttery with the aroma of cardamom and a hint of orange.