Byopia Press 2017 Advent Calendar: Day Twenty-two and a star bread

The star scone tasted fine but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the shape so, after more internet searching, I thought I would try a star bread. This is the result just before baking.

It’s a layered bread made with a quick Russian yeast dough and filled with Kalamata olive paste. (I prefer savoury breads to sweet ones.) I got the idea from pictures found on Postila.ru (Russian Pinterest?). The dough in the pictures appeared to handle like the Russian dough recipe I sometimes use.

If you want to try this, you will need to make the filling first. (Pdf of recipe here.)

Count out 60 pitted Kalamata olives (about 250 ml), double checking for pits as you go. Put them in your blender or food processor.

Add the chopped onions and garlic.

Measure out the parsley, leaves only. You should pack them in fairly tightly. Add to your other ingredients.

Add the cider vinegar and about 1/4 cup of the oil. Process by pulsing or switching off and on and scraping down in between, adding more oil as required. You want a textured result, not a completely smooth purée.

Decant into a container and store in the fridge until ready for use. The olive paste will keep for up to a week.

The olive paste can be made by hand: it just takes dedication and a lot of chopping!

Now for the dough. (PDF here.)

I copied the original of this recipe out of a collection of Russian regional recipes years ago.

I have adapted the recipe to reduce the amount of fat. It still produces a baked result that is somewhere between a bread and a pie crust.

Mix the first three ingredients and let sit until yeast is foamy.

While the yeast is working, melt the butter in the olive oil and let cool a bit.

Mix together the yeast mixture and the fat in a large bowl, then add the flour one cup at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.

Scrape the dough (it will be quite sticky) onto a well-floured work surface.

Dust with a little more flour and begin kneading. When the dough is no longer sticky, cover it and let it rest. (I just use the mixing bowl as a cover.)

Your rested dough should look something like this.

If you aren’t baking the bread right away, you can oil a lidded container and put the dough in it. It will keep for up to 24 hours if refrigerated.

Shaping the bread:

If the dough and filling have been in the fridge, let them warm up for half an hour or so. Preheat the oven to 190C (Gas Mark 5, 375F).

Divide the dough in thirds, then roll out one third into a circle about 30 cm (12 inches) across and place it on a parchment-lined baking pan. Spread about 60 cc (1/4 cup) of olive paste on the dough. Roll out another third of the dough and place on top. Add another layer of olive paste. (You will have enough left over to make a spaghetti supper for 3 – 4 people. Just toss the cooked pasta with the paste and serve. You may need to add a tiny bit more olive oil to help distribute it evenly.)

Top with the final third of the dough. Trim the edges to make them even.

Cut slits in the dough, leaving an uncut area in the middle. (I used a small pentagon as a guide.)

I cut 5 slits first, then divided each section into four. Twist the strips, then brush the surface with a little eggwash or milk. (I used milk.) You will need to work quickly as the dough will be rising and getting softer as you work.

If you look closely, you can see where I reversed the direction on two of the strips. That was mistake #1. I also tried to shape the sections to points, which made it look more like a flower. Mistake #2. I should have concentrated on keeping the zigzag lines created by the twisting more even.

It wasn’t until after this experiment that I found this webpage, which demonstrates a better way to handle it. The picture below shows the results. (Don’t bother clicking on the links below the recipe for more instructions. They don’t go anywhere useful.)

Bake the bread immediately (no rising time) in the pre-heated 190C (Gas Mark 5, 375F) oven until the top is lightly browned and the centre sounds hollow when tapped. The bread took about 45 minutes in our gas oven.

We had some for supper. The outer sections pulled apart easily for serving and we ate more of it than was probably good for us.

I will report on my second attempt at a star bread tomorrow.

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About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
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