I find shaping bread so much fun. Fresh baked bread is always a crowd pleaser, but with just a teeny bit more time & effort, it becomes an absolute showstopper. This Fall, I dreamed up a harvest themed board with pumpkin and leaf shaped breads. Happily, it materialized! (Unlike some other designs I’ve dreamed up…) I couldn’t be more pleased with both the look and taste. It makes for a perfect festive spread for any autumn gathering!
For the recipe, I used Nonna’s Bread. But, your favorite recipe will do. Just don’t go for a high hydration recipe — you need a dough easy to handle and manipulate. Personally, I’d love to try it out with yeasted pumpkin bread next. It’d be too perfect! As far as yield, where a recipe makes one loaf, you can make either one large pumpkin with four leaves or two smaller pumpkins with four leaves. (Since Nonna’s bread usually makes 3 sandwich loaves, I ended up with 2 large pumpkins, two smaller pumpkins, and 12 leaves.)
Pumpkin & Leaves Bread Shaping Tutorial
Make the bread recipe of your choosing. Follow steps as usual, but after the first (bulk) rise, follow these:
For the larger pumpkins:
Divide dough meant for one sandwich loaf into eight pieces. Set two pieces aside. Shape the remaining six pieces into balls. On a parchment lined baking sheet, form balls into a ring.
Return to the two pieces you set aside. Set one aside (to use for the leaves later). Take the other one and divide in half. Roll each half into a rough 6-12in strand. Then take both strands and twist together to form the stem.
Take stem and coil into center of ring. Nestle it in snuggly, then curl and place it as you please on and over the top. Cover and let rise a second time (proof) according to recipe.
For the smaller pumpkins:
Divide dough meant for one sandwich loaf into eight pieces. Set two pieces aside. Cut each of the remaining six pieces in half. Shape each half into a total of twelve balls. On a parchment lined baking sheet, form balls into two rings, using six balls per ring.
Return to the two pieces you set aside. Set one aside (to use for the leaves later). Take the remaining piece and divide into four pieces. Roll each into a rough 6in strand. Then take two strands and twist together to form one stem. Repeat with other two strands.
Take stems and coil into center of rings. Nestle them in snuggly, then curl and place it as you please on and over the top. Cover and let rise a second time (proof) according to recipe.
For the leaves:
Take the remaining piece(s). Divide into four pieces, then shape each into a mini torpedo roll. Once shaped, gently press down with your fingers to flatten.
Take a knife and cut two slits on each side of the leaf. Separate the slits to form the notches of a leaf. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, touch up as you wish, then cover and let rise a second time according to recipe.
Once pumpkins and leaves are about 30 minutes away from completing their second rise, preheat oven. (Most recipes for rolls vary from 350-400. Either will work. 350 will take closer to 20-30 minutes where 400 will take 15-25 minutes.)
Then, make your egg washes. Take an egg, and beat until frothy. Brushing this alone on your bread will give it a slightly golden, shiny crust once baked. Play around with the washes. Have fun!
To get a deeper brown, mix a bit of the egg with a pinch of cinnamon. (I also used a pinch of sugar. On the leaves especially, which got crispier due to being smaller, they ended up tasting almost like cookies. Yum!)
To get orange, mix a bit of the egg with a pinch turmeric.
To get red, mix a bit of the egg with a pinch of smoked or regular paprika.
Once mixed, gently brush the washes onto the leaves and pumpkins. (I used all the washes listed above on the leaves to get an assortment of colors. I used different variations on the pumpkins, but my favorite were the smaller pumpkins where I used turmeric and smoked paprika egg wash on the ring and left the stem unwashed.)
Bake pumpkins and leaves until golden, sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, or thermometer reads between 185 and 195. (Again, about 20-30 minutes at 350 or 15-25 minutes at 400.) The leaves will get crispier, but this makes them delicious. Almost like crackers!
Ideally, let cool, then enjoy as is or assemble on a large cutting board with an assortment of fresh or dried fruit, jams, dips or spreads, cheeses, olives, meats, drizzles of infused oil or honey, etc…. Make it a work of art!