Mixing, kneading, and shaping loaves of artisan bread takes talent. If you’ve mastered those techniques and want to take it one step further, though, decorative features are next on the list. We’ll teach you how to turn those loaves into little works of art.
You might have noticed that your Instagram feed is filled with images of edible crafts lately. Artists from around the world are showing off their culinary expertise in all areas, but especially in bread.
If you’re wondering how these folks turn artisan bread into Insta-worthy masterpieces, we’ll show you how.
Let’s start with the quintessential bread decoration—slashes. Scoring bread dough isn’t just a way to turn it into a beautiful work of art. While it certainly adds a decorative feature to bread dough, the practical function of scoring is to allow the dough to expand during the baking process.
Scoring the dough helps control the direction in which the bread will increase, so the best time to do it is right before it goes in the oven.
To do it properly you’ll need a lame. This bread tool is essentially just a handle that holds a double-edged razor. A sharp knife will sometimes do the trick, but a lame will help produce those intricate details over and over. Plus, when the razor edge dulls, you just swap it out for a new one.
Stencil and Dust Over
Stenciling an elaborate design is just one trick of the trade that adds magnificent flair to any baked bread. You’ll want to use something like a round loaf to get started because they’re larger and easier to work with.
Carefully place your stencil on top of the loaf, and then use a sifter or dusting wand to gently, yet liberally, dust your powdered ingredient of choice on top. You can use flour, cocoa powder, or even dehydrated fruit or vegetable powder.
The stencil prevents the powdered ingredient from landing anywhere else, creating a unique, fancy effect.
If you can braid hair, you can braid bread—in fact, it might be easier than braiding hair. You can even take it up a notch and braid up to six strands of dough to create something like a gorgeous challah bread.
Before braiding, coat each strand with flour to keep the distinct definition of each strand intact before baking the bread.
For a fancy (and tasty) textured bread, coat each strand with a different ingredient. Poppy or sesame seeds, or dried, granulated garlic all work wonders and provide the perfect crunch to a soft loaf.
Shape the Loaf
The shape of your bread defines the kind you’re making. For example, a French baguette will always look long and narrow, while a Boule (ball) will always be round. However, you can shape your bread however you like!
Most tutorials provide images and explanations about how to achieve each shape, but there’s room for imagination here, too. For example, if you want to surprise your partner with some lovely homemade bread, braid and shape it into the heart.
Decorate with Herbs and Veggies
Many people are creating gorgeous edible imagery on focaccia bread, and then baking it to perfection. With cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, and other various herbs and veggies, food artists are crafting some fantastic-looking stuff.
Wanna try it out? We’ve created a simple focaccia bread recipe and paired it with decorating instructions to help you create some lovely decorated bread.
Add Texture with Toppings
Topping bread dough with grains or cheese is a simple, yet tasty, way to add nutrition, texture, and extra flavor. You’ve likely enjoyed a slice of fresh bread filled with nuts, fruit, and other grains. However, adding these ingredients to the exterior produces a depth of flavor like nothing else.
Make sure your toppings complement the type of bread you’re making, though. For example, a sweet and rich dough will do well with sweet additions, but a hearty, crusty loaf will taste better with something like a coarse garlic coating.
Here are a few of our favorite toppings:
- Dehydrated granulated garlic
- Sesame seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Kosher salt
- Everything bagel seasoning
- Hard shredded cheese (Asiago, cheddar)
Possibly the most popular way to top the exterior of the bread is by spreading the desired ingredient on a towel, and then placing the dough on top. From there, it’s transferred for the final proof.
As you can see, there are several methods to the madness of bread baking. Next time you decide to get your hands doughy, try adding an extra kick of beauty to those tasty loaves.