Episode 3, GBBO 2015, Showstopper

3D Bread Sculpture

Who can forget the famous lion bread sculpture from the 2015 season of The Great British Bake Off? It was one of those iconic bakes that made me think, I want to try that! And that recurring thought is what got me started on this Great British Baking Challenge.

It was, of course, the showstopper challenge for Bread Week — to create a 3D bread sculpture using up to three different kinds of dough (none of the bakers in the Great White Tent used any fewer than three, naturally), at least one of which had to be filled.

And now here I am, facing the same challenge.

What do you call those pictures of the sun on one side of a circle and the moon on the other, where they kind of morph into one another? I don’t know either, but that was my inspiration. I’ve decided to call it a sun-moon medallion. The image in my head didn’t come out quite the same in bread, but it did make for a tasty smorgasbord when served with various meats and cheeses. (It would also look great as an edible centerpiece for a charcuterie board!)

For the sun portion of my sculpture, I used a turmeric-basil rye bread recipe from TheSpruceEats.com. The turmeric gives it a nice sunny yellow color, and the basil mellows the flavor with an herby earthiness. The moon part of my sculpture is made of a dark rye bread, which uses a little cocoa and molasses to deepen the color and give it a rich, complex flavor. 

Enclose the pesto and mozzarella inside the rolls.

For the sun’s rays, I made the same dough that I used for my Mediterranean Tear-and-Share, which was adapted from this recipe. Instead of rolling it up like a Swiss roll, however, I divided the dough into individual portions, flattened each one and filled it with a little pesto and fresh mozzarella, then folded it over and sealed it with egg wash. (This was only partially successful, as some of the cheese leaked out during the baking process.)

Sun-moon bread, prebaked.
Close-up after baking.

I formed the main “body” of my sun-moon medallion on an overturned pizza pan covered with foil. For facial features, I used roasted red peppers for lips, and a bay leaf and olive for the sun’s eye. After cutting slits in the dough where the eyebrows should be, I filled them with sesame seeds — black for the sun’s eyebrow and light for the moon’s. Additional details were created by rolling bits of dough into long, thin pieces and forming them into eyelids and eyelashes, as well as swirls for the cheeks. I clipped the eyelashes with scissors to make them look more realistic. For the moon’s nose, I took a cue from Paul Jagger, the contestant who made the lion sculpture (not Paul the judge), and formed it around a little ball of aluminum foil to keep it from collapsing during the rising and baking process. 

I don’t know if Paul Hollywood would call this a true sculpture, or if he would consider it more of a bas relief, but I had fun making it, and I encourage you to try your hand at sculpting bread dough, too. Be creative!

I’ve laid out here how to make all three types of dough at once, so you, too, can be a magnificent Bake-Off multitasker!

Sun-Moon Medallion Bread Sculpture

  • Servings: Makes 1 large loaf and 12 rolls
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Rye bread adapted from TasteOfHome.com; Credit for turmeric-basil bread: TheSpruceEats.com; Pesto-filled rolls adapted from: BBCGoodFood.com

For the rye (moon) dough:

  • 1 packet (2¼ t.) active dry yeast
  • ¾ c. warm water (110-115°F)
  • ¼ c. molasses
  • 3 T. butter, softened
  • 1 c. rye flour
  • 2 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1¾-2 c. all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil, for the bowl

    For the turmeric-basil (sun) dough:

    • ¾ c. warm water (110-115°F)
    • 1 packet (2¼ t.) active dry yeast
    • ½ c. whole milk, room temperature
    • 1 T. olive oil, plus a little more for the bowl
    • 1 T. vegetable shortening
    • 1½ T. sugar
    • 1 t. salt
    • 3½ c. all-purpose flour, divided
    • ¾ c. rye flour
    • 1 T. dried basil
    • 1 t. turmeric
    • Cornmeal, for sprinkling

      For the pesto mozzarella rolls (sun’s rays):

      • 3 1/3 c. bread flour
      • 1 packet (2¼ t.) active dry yeast
      • 1 t. sugar
      • 1½ t. fine salt
      • 1¼ c. warm water (110-115°F)
      • 2 T. olive oil, plus a little more for the bowl
      • 2 T. pesto
      • 12 balls of fresh mozzarella, ciliegine (cherry-sized)

        For decoration:

        • 1 egg, lightly beaten
        • 1 roasted red pepper, sliced
        • 1 bay leaf
        • 1 large black olive, pitted
        • Black sesame seeds
        • Light sesame seeds


          1. Start with the rye dough: In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Beat in molasses, butter, rye flour, cocoa, salt and 1 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Lightly oil the mixing bowl and place the ball of dough into the bowl, turning once to coat the top with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours.
          2. Then start the turmeric-basil dough: Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and stir until it is dissolved. Mix in the milk, olive oil, shortening, sugar and salt. Stir in 1½ cups all-purpose flour, along with all of the rye flour. Add the basil and turmeric. Continue adding all-purpose flour ¼ cup at a time, stirring until the dough follows the spoon around the bowl, about ½ cup flour total.
          3. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, sprinkling with more flour as needed (but no more than 1/8 cup at a time) when the dough becomes too wet and sticky to work with. Add only as much flour as needed to get a silky-smooth dough that bounces back when poked. You will use more flour at first and less toward the end, around ¾ to 1 cup total.
          4. Lightly oil the mixing bowl with olive oil, place the ball of dough into the bowl, turning once to coat the top with oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise for 1 hour.
          5. Start the roll dough: In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add about 1 cup of the warm water, along with the olive oil, and start the mixer on low, mixing until the ingredients begin to clump together. Add more water, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated. (You may not need all the water.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
          6. Lightly oil the bowl that was used to mix the dough, then put the dough back in, turning it over to coat it in oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and set it in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1-3 hours.
          7. Go back to the turmeric-basil dough: Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently shape it into a ball, cover with a towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Cover the back of a pizza pan with aluminum foil, spray it lightly with vegetable oil spray and sprinkle with cornmeal.
          8. Gently knead the dough for about 1 minute until it becomes more of solid ball. If needed, add just a sprinkling of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the surface or your hands.
          9. Roll out the dough to a circle slightly larger than the pizza pan. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, shaping it to fit. Trim edges if needed and reserve a few pieces for facial features.
          10. Back to the rye bread: Punch dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into an elongated oval so that it covers about half of the pizza pan. Cut it into a crescent shape, with the silhouette of a nose and lips. Transfer to the pizza pan, placing it on top of the turmeric-basil dough. Place a small ball of foil under the nose to create a nostril.
          11. Use trimmings from the turmeric-basil dough to create the moon’s eyelashes and swirls for the cheek. Use rye dough trimmings to create swirls for the sun’s cheek. Form lips with the roasted red pepper slices. Slice the olive crosswise, and cut a circle the same size as the olive slice out of the center of the bay leaf. (Scissors work well for this.) Place the bay leaf on the sun where its eye should go, and place the olive slice in the center. Roll some more rye dough trimmings to form the sun’s eyelid and eyelashes. Use scissors to snip the eyelashes. Use a sharp knife to cut slits in the dough to form the eyebrows. Fill the moon’s eyebrow with light sesame seeds and the sun’s eyebrow with black sesame seeds.
          12. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
          13. Form the rolls: When the roll dough has doubled in bulk, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover the dough and punch It down a couple times with your fist, knocking out most of the air. Tip it out onto a floured surface and dust the top with a little flour if it’s sticky.
          14. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Flatten each with a rolling pin into a circle. Place ½ teaspoon pesto and a mozzarella ball in the center, being careful to keep the pesto away from the edge of the circle. Brush the edge with a little of the beaten egg and seal. (Keeping the pesto away from the edges is crucial, as the oil in the pesto will prevent the edges from sticking together, and then the filling will leak out, like some of mine did.) The roll should now look like a half circle (or a mini calzone). Place them on the parchment-covered baking sheet, seam-side down. Loosely cover them with oiled plastic wrap and leave to prove for 30 minutes to an hour until almost doubled in size again.
          15. When the sun-moon bread has proved for 30 minutes, brush with the lightly beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the turmeric-basil bread is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190°F. (I inserted the thermometer horizontally into the thickest part of the bread.) If turmeric-basil bread starts to brown before the rye bread is done, cover loosely with foil. When done, remove from oven and place on cooling rack to cool. (Leave bread on pizza pan until cool.) Leave oven at 375°F for the rolls.
          16. Back to the rolls: When rolls have nearly doubled in size, uncover them, brush with beaten egg, and bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190°F. When done, transfer from baking sheet to cooling rack.
          17. When the sun-moon bread is cool, carefully remove it from the pizza pan and place it on a large platter or charcuterie board. (You may need to keep the pizza pan under it for support, or use some crinkled-up aluminum foil to support it from underneath.) Place the rolls around the sun to look like the sun’s rays. Serve with sliced meats, cheese and fruit.

          Up Next: Crème Brûlée

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