I made this a couple weeks back, and life being what it is sometimes, I’m just now getting around to writing about it. It was going to be my belated Valentine’s Day bake, but now it’s too late to even call it that. Still, it’s an impressive showstopper for any time of the year.
The challenge for this episode of The Great British Bake Off was to make a decorative loaf of any shape or flavor. Paul and Mary wanted to see creativity and innovative flavors from the bakers in the Great White Tent. The judges were not disappointed. They got a white chocolate and orange peacock from Ruby, a Picasso-inspired sun bread from Howard and a psychic octopus loaf from Rob.
For my decorative loaf, I decided to make star bread, which has become popular in the past year or two, thanks to this recipe from Taste of Home. But I hadn’t made one before and I wanted to try it. To twist things up a bit (pun intended), I chose to use two different fillings, raspberry jam and a chocolate almond cream cheese. I also wanted to attempt to make the center heart-shaped instead of round. You can be the judge of whether I achieved that or not.
I used this recipe from CafeDelites.com for the bread. It includes photos and good instructions on how to shape the dough. I found a chocolate almond danish recipe which I used for the chocolate filling. And for the raspberry jam I used this recipe, although I cut it in half because I knew I wouldn’t need very much.
This bread recipe calls for activating the yeast by adding it to warm milk and butter and letting it sit for 10 minutes or so until it gets nice and frothy on top. All those bubbles mean that the yeast is active and converting its food (in this case the naturally occurring sugars in milk) into carbon dioxide. This is what makes the dough rise.
The milk, butter and yeast mixture is then added to flour, sugar and salt and mixed until they form a soft dough. The dough is kneaded until smooth and elastic and then allowed to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about two to three hours. After the first rise, the air is punched out of the dough, and then this recipe calls for another, shorter rise of about 30 minutes before the dough is shaped.
When it was time for me to shape my dough, I followed the instructions in the recipe: dividing the dough into four equal pieces, rolling them each into a 12-inch circle, and stacking them on top of each other, spreading the fillings in between. I spread the first layer with raspberry jam, the second layer with chocolate cream cheese and the third layer with more jam.
In order to form the star shape, the stacked circles of dough are cut into 16 equal sections, with the cuts radiating out from a circle in the center like marks on a clock. Instead of making a circle in the center of my dough, however, I traced a cardboard heart with a dull knife to create an indentation in the center of my dough that my cuts would radiate from.
Taking two adjacent sections of dough at a time, I twisted each section away from each other twice and then joined them together at the ends to form a point. By repeating this all the way around I ended up with an eight-pointed star. Covering it with a towel, I let the dough rise one more time, then brushed it with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkled it with sliced almonds before baking it at 350°F for 20-30 minutes.
My star bread looked stunning, and the raspberry-chocolate flavor combination is a classic (especially for Valentine’s Day). The only problem was that, while the “points” of the star were well-baked, the center was almost raw. Next time, I will let it bake longer, covering the outer edges with foil if needed in order to prevent them from overbrowning.
Chocolate Raspberry Star Bread
Chocolate filling adapted from: RealHouseMoms.com
Raspberry filling adapted from: RoseBakes.com
For the fillings:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 3 t. almond extract, divided
- ½ c. + 2 T. sugar, divided
- ½ c. chocolate chips
- ¼ c. heavy cream
- 2 c. frozen raspberries
- ¼ c. water, divided
- 1 t. lemon juice
- 1½ T. cornstarch
For the dough:
- 7 oz. milk
- 2 T. butter
- 1 envelope (2 ¼ t.) instant yeast
- 3 1/3 c. bread flour
- 1/3 c. sugar
- 1/8 t. salt
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1-2 T. sliced almonds (optional)
- To make the chocolate filling, mix cream cheese, 2 t. almond extract and ¼ c. sugar together until well combined. In a separate, heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream, and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until chocolate is smooth and melted. Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and stir until well mixed. If making ahead of time, store in refrigerator but bring to room temperature before using.
- To make the raspberry filling, combine raspberries, 3/8 c. (6 T.) sugar, 2 T. water and lemon juice in a small pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until berries break apart and juice is reduced, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat, and pour juice and berries into a sieve, pressing them through with a silicone spatula to get as much juice and pulp as possible while straining out the seeds. Scrape the underside of the sieve to get all of the pulp off. Pour juice and pulp back into the pan.
- In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and remaining 2 T. water until dissolved. Then whisk it into the raspberry mixture.
- Bring mixture to a boil again, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching. Turn the heat down, and continue cooking until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- For the bread dough, heat milk and butter together in microwave until temperature reaches 110°F (warm to the touch). Add the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes or until frothy on top.
- While yeast is activating, combine flour, sugar and salt in mixer bowl.
- Create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add yeast mixture and egg yolks, and mix until well combined.
- Knead by hand for 10-12 minutes until dough is soft and elastic. If dough is too dry, make a well in the dough and add a tablespoon of milk. Knead it in to the dough until well combined. If it’s still too dry, add one more tablespoon of milk the same way.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough into the bowl, turning once to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and set in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, about 2-3 hours. (To check to see if the dough is ready, gently press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough hasn’t risen enough.)
- Punch dough down, cover again and let rest for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size again. While dough is rising, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- When dough is ready, lightly flour work surface and divide the dough into four equal pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out one piece into a 12-inch circle. Place a large plate on top of the dough circle and cut around the edge with a sharp knife, removing excess dough around the edges. Place the circle of dough onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Dollop a tablespoon of raspberry filling onto the dough circle and spread just about to the edges, adding more filling if needed. (Don’t spread it too thick or it will ooze out when you’re twisting it.)
- Roll out and cut the second piece of dough the same as the first and place that circle on top of the first. Spread with chocolate filling. Repeat with the third piece of dough, spreading with raspberry filling again. Roll out and cut the fourth piece of dough and place atop the third circle, but don’t add any filling to the top.
- Using a 4-4½” paper heart as a pattern, place it in the center of the layered dough and lightly trace around it with a dull knife or spatula. (Alternatively, you can use a small cup to trace a circle in the center of the dough.)
- Cutting from the traced heart (or circle) outward, divide the dough into fourths, making cuts at the 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Then divide each of those sections in half, again cutting from the center outward. Repeat by dividing each section in half again so you end up with 16 sections.
- Using both hands, take two sections that are side by side and twist them away from each other two full turns. Press the ends together to form a point. Repeat this with all of the pieces until each section is twisted and pressed against another section, creating an eight-pointed star.
- Cover the bread loosely with a damp towel and let rest one more time for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat egg whites lightly and brush onto the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.
- Bake in center of oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and golden. (Using an instant-read thermometer, the temperature in the center of the loaf should be 190°F.) Remove from baking sheet to a cooling rack. When cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.