Is there any celebration that isn’t well served by making bread? It’s something that I work into most things because not only do I love doing it but it’s an ancient art that has fed the human race for thousands of years and I like that connection.

Before I get into everything else here is the recipe upfront. Continue below for more details on making and shaping the dough.



> Imbolc Bread

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  • prep time: 2.5 h

  • cook time: 13 min


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 2/3 cup whole milk

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour

  • 2 1/3 cups bread flour

  • 1 tsp salt

  • Olive oil

  • Dried calendula

  • Rosemary

  • Kosher salt


    **retain the 1/3 cup of bread flour for kneading later



Instructions:


  1. Mix sugar and yeast into warm water and set aside until it starts to foam up

  2. Mix egg and milk into yeast mixture

  3. In a separate bowl combine flours and salt

  4. Add yeast mixture to flour stir to combine

  5. Empty bowl onto lightly floured surface

  6. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes

  7. Place in oiled bowl, proof covered for 1h or until doubled in size

  8. Press down dough and kneed for about a minute then shape

  9. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle on calendula, rosemary and salt

  10. Set aside to proof uncovered for 45 minutes or until doubled in size

  11. Bake at 375°F for 9-13 minutes, until golden brown on the top

  12. Let cool before cutting




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This is a pretty basic bread recipe, I went with a simple enriched dough. Imbolc is about the first stirrings of spring. The flame in the belly, those first few signs start to show up and even when they are hard to see, other things like the birth of the first goats of the year are undeniable. That is why one of the big symbols for this day is milk. It’s time now (or soon) for milking to begin in full swing again as the babes start to show up. I thought it would be fitting to bring in some local eggs and local farm fresh whole milk, any milk and eggs will do but the better the ingredients, the better the product.

I always start my bread the same way. In a measuring cup large enough for all my wet ingredients I mix in the water, sugar and yeast. The water needs to be warm but not hot, too hot and you’ll kill the yeast. I aim for slightly above body temperature. When it’s all mixed I let it sit for a few minutes just until it starts to foam up, my main goal in waiting is to make sure my yeast is still good. I have made the mistake too many times of skipping the wait only to find a ball of dough that hasn’t risen because my yeast was no longer active.

While waiting for the yeast to get lively, I mixed my flours and salt into a large bowl. You could change the type of flour used but the liquid content may need changing too, the more whole wheat flour in a recipe, the more liquid you’ll need. All-purpose flour could be used instead of bread flour but bread flour has a high gluten content and gets a nice rise even when mixed with whole wheat, which has a lower gluten content. I mix the dry ingredients with my fingers and create a little well in the center of the bowl.

Spy the toes of a helper in a ring sling.

Once the yeast appears active I add the egg and milk to my measuring cup and stir it up a bit, I just want to break up the egg slightly and mix in the milk. Then I pour it into my flour. I start stirring it in with a fork then finish it with my hands.

I knead this recipe for about 5 minutes until it’s nice and smooth. If the dough is too wet then add in some flour until it’s workable, but not too much! It should be knead-able but still a bit tacky.

When it’s nice, smooth and springy to the touch; it’s ready. Place a small amount of oil in a bowl and rub in around the sides, put the dough into the bowl and rub the oil on the top of it as well. Cover it with a bowl cover or a kitchen towel and set aside to proof. Since this bread is more than half whole wheat it’s not going to give you an overly impressive rise like it would if it were only white flour.

I learned a tip from another blog years ago to preheat your oven at 350 for 1 minute then turn it off and proof your bread in there. It’ll be warm and draft free which makes rising times way more predictable especially in the colder months.

Shaping the Dough

Here is one of the things that make this bread different from our daily bread; the shape. I divided my dough in half and created a braided ring and a pull apart flower.

The ring is made by splitting the dough into three equal pieces, knead them slightly then start to roll. The dough will roll better after its rested so I roll each piece a little bit at a time, then I set it aside and do the next, by the time I’ve made it back to the first its had enough time to rest and is ready to stretch out a little more without resisting as much. I repeat this cycle over and over just a little bit at a time, when it starts to resist I put it down and move to the next piece. Since they are going to be braided they need to be about 1 1/2 times the circumference of the finished ring.

To braid the pieces, lay all the pieces out vertically and lightly pinch them together at the top. Braid them gently but quickly with well-floured hands. When coming to the end, gently pull apart the beginning of the braid and work the ends in together. Any pieces that are too long can be removed and added back into the other half of the dough that was set aside.

I like to bake nearly everything in cast iron. For this bread I lightly oiled my pans then sprinkled the bottom with corn meal before adding in the shaped dough.

To add in the toppings brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on any herbs or spices you want. For Imbolc I chose dried calendula, rosemary and kosher salt. Calendula is such a happy flower, with a lovely scent and a mild flavor when dry, I like using it because it’s not perfume-y at all in taste and can be a little bit peppery even.

With the other half of the dough I cut it into small pieces and flattened them into petal shapes, ovals pointed at one end. In a small cast iron pan prepared in the same way as the last I laid them out in a circle, then with slightly small pieces I did the same and laid them in the center, with the last of the dough I formed a small ball and placed it in the center.

It helps when doing anything like this to keep your hands nicely floured to prevent any sticking.

Once the shaping is done its back to proofing this time uncovered. Again proof until doubled in size. I watched these ones pretty carefully which is not something I do often, if they get too proved all that effort put into braiding and shaping will be lost.

When sufficiently risen bake for 9-13 minutes at 375 ° F until it’s nice and golden brown on top. Wait until it’s cooled a bit before digging in, cutting fresh bread while too warm is not going to give good results, but tearing it is always a good way to go.

I served our bread with fresh farmers cheese and it was perfect.

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