For recipe Harvest festival bread
Roll out approximately half of the dough about 10mm thick, into the Wheat Sheaf shape, either using a pre-formed pattern or freehand, cutting the edges of the dough at an angle (a pizza cutter is ideal for this) see photo 1.
Place onto a clean lightly greased baking sheet/tray, water wash and then dock all over with a fork to prevent uneven fermentation.
The size of the finished sheaf is governed by the size of your baking tray. The recipe given will produce a sheaf to fit a tray 320mm x 330mm (12.5 in x 13in)
Keep the surface of the dough damp to avoid skinning.
To form the ears of wheat, weigh a piece of dough 30gm (1oz), roll out to a finger length and then divide into 4, each ear will weigh approx 7.5gm ( 1/4 oz) . Form into torpedo shape and start to place around the edge of the base, washing with water frequently to make sure the ears adhere to the base. Continue around the edge and then start a second row, half overlapping the first row, until the top of the sheaf is covered. (see below)
You will see by the last photo that the last row of ears are not formed in a straight line.
The next stage is to produce the stalks of the sheaf (straw). To do this take small amounts of dough and roll into long , thin strands, the thiner the better. Place them on to base as shown using water wash, allow the strands to overlap the bottom of the base to help hide the edge and to give a more natural appearance. Vary the lengths and if you have sufficient dough give it a second layer.
When the base is covered with straws you need to form a simple rope effect to place around the middle to give the appearance of the sheaf being tied. This can be two lengths of dough just twisted together or if , as we have done , a three strand plait. Place across the straws and tuck the ends under the base. You can now add some more ears to cover the ends of the straws and let some of them hang over the cord.
It is traditional to place a field mouse on the sheaf. To make the mouse form a small ball of dough, shape it into a pear shape. The point will become the nose. With a pair of scissors nick both sides of this point to form the ears. Eyes are bits of currants and to finish it is given a thin tail of dough. See below:
Crack an egg into a bowl and add half an egg shell of water , mix together to make an egg wash. Carefully wash the whole sheaf with the egg wash. For the best effect each ear should be washed individually, brushing outwards to the point of each ear. With the stalks it is best to wash in the direction of the stalks not across them. Try to avoid puddles of egg as the egg will cook and leave an undesirable appearance, also take care not to flatten the ears.
When it is completely egg washed you then need to give the ears their final forming. This is done with a pair of sharp pointed scissors. Photo 1 below shows how to clip the ears of corn, using scissors, as stated this is best carried out when all the ears are on the base , photo 2. Photos 3 and 4 give a close up of the result of this action.
After clipping all the ears allow to stand for 10 minutes to recover/prove. Do not over prove. Because of the time taken to construct, the yeast has had plenty of time to work, sometimes too much. This is why a slow cold dough is used.
Bake in an oven 225C , fan 205C, 440F. After 20 minutes reduce the temperature to 205C, fan 185C, 400F.After a further 20 minutes reduce the temp by 5C and continue baking for another 20 minutes making 60 minutes all together.
The sheaf should now be baked, carefully remove from the oven and as soon as possible slid onto a wire cooling rack. Leaving it on the baking sheet could case it to sweat.
This product is edible but not necessary palatable. If it has been egg washed correctly it should have a glossy appearance. To enhance the sheaf and prolong its life it can be painted with edible varnish. This product, if kept correctly, will keep for a very long time.