Traveling up to a friends marvelous country home in the Norfolk countryside a few weeks ago, I noticed as I was gazing out of the train window ( by this time I was bored with my limited itunes playlist on my ipod) that harvest was in full swing with most of the fields we past having already been plowed. I also noted the big cylindrical “bales” of hay and got thinking about the old-fashioned wheat sheaf, specifically the traditional bread ones made for Harvest festivals. I have fond memories of my infant school ones where we had to take some food in to be donated to a local charity, usually my mum rustled up a dusty packet of dried soup from the back of a cupboard that had been won in a school fete tombola at some point and was still complete with raffle ticket attached.
As you walked into the assembly hall, usually to ” we plow the fields and scatter” being banged out on the piano by the music teacher, My attention would be drawn to the bread wheat sheaf display standing proud. It was many years later when I was training to be a baker at college that I learnt how to make one myself, we also made bread horns of plenty, I have a picture of me somewhere, taken in a neighbour’s garden proudly showing of my horn, if I find it I will post it one day ;).
I don’t know if harvest festivals are abundant theses days in schools, or if wheat sheafs are still made as much as they were, they were made to celebrate a good harvest, normally with a little mouse on it, rumour has it the mouse symbolised a good harvest, meaning times were good if you had enough wheat for your village and could spare some for the local mouse population, I kinda like that idea, I hope its true.
Right enough of my rambling, have a go at this old tradition, its easy peasy. the dough is made with cold water and a bit more salt so it doesn’t prove to quickly as it takes awhile to make all the ears of corn.
Please note this recipe is for a display piece more than eating, you can try with an edible recipe if you like, but work fast before it rises too much.
I really enjoyed re-visiting this old skill and in the end made a big bread display where I work in Spring studios.
So follow the recipe and method gallery and have bready fun 🙂
YOU WILL NEED:
A large baking tray ( the biggest your oven can take anyway)
A pair of scissors
That is all
700g strong white bread flour
10g instant dried yeast
450ml cold water
3 egg yolks ( for glazing and sticking)
METHOD FOR DOUGH:
mix all the dry ingredients together, then gradually beat in the water until you get a nice firm dough and the bowl is clean with no dough sticking to the sides, if your dough feels too wet or tacky add a touch more flour, if it’s too dry and not very malleable add a bit more water.
Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes until you have a nice clean ball of dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes somewhere cool, then split the dough into two, keep one-quarter for the base and three-quarters for the decoration on top.
Now follow the method gallery below, click on any image to enlarge
© The cake-shaker 2011