Today is Christmas Eve, and with all the festivities in the air I wanted to share one more holiday recipe with you. It might be too late to make it for Christmas proper, but there’s no reason why you can’t make this wreath bread on New Year’s Eve to celebrate waving a giant goodbye to the emotional rollercoaster that was the year 2020. I know I will most definitely be celebrating in the form of excess baked goods. 😛
As for this bread, I’ve always been in love with the shape of traditional French bread-style wreath bread, but I am also pretty obsessed with stuffed breads, (as is evidenced here, here, and here), so I figured out a way to combine the shape of the first with the flavor of the second, and ended up with this savory little number.
The flavors here draw very deeply from the Mediterranean, where at least one instance of saffron, cured pork, olives, or pistachios can be found at every dinner table. The wreath tastes like the smell of a Spanish market—where delicious salty pork, aged cheese, aromatic saffron, and briny olives abound. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been to Spain, but the amazing flavors within its borders have been seared into my taste-memory, and I doubt they’ll ever fade because they’re so darn good.
To make the bread a bit easier to prepare, I have an overnight rise so that the process is broken up into two days. So on day 1, you make the basic bread dough, cover it, and chill it in the fridge. And you make the caramelized onions so that they’re all cooled down and ready for layering the next day. You can also make the cilantro olive pistachio pesto on day 1, or you can do it on day 2—it’s up to you how much you feel like doing on the second day vs the first.
As for baking the wreath bread, I highly recommend using a baking stone. It will make sure the bread rises properly in the oven, since the heat coming from the bottom of the stone will help bake and cook through the bottom of the bread and make it nice and crisp on the bottom. If you don’t have one, you can use a baking sheet, but it may take longer to bake than the time described in the recipe below.
I have two recommendations to make it easier to keep the lovely shape of the wreath. One is to use a 5-inch cake pan placed in the center to hold the perfect circular shape of the middle of the wreath. It’s fine if you don’t have one, the circle just won’t be as perfectly round when it baked up. And the second is to create the wreath shape on a piece of parchment paper, that you then slide onto the baking stone. Sliding the parchment paper onto the baking stone makes it SO much safer and easier to move the dough onto the baking stone without damaging the shape of the wreath.
Saffron Wreath Bread with Prosciutto, Gruyere, and Cilantro Olive Pesto
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water lukewarm
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk lukewarm
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 cups flour
- 1 egg room temperature
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound yellow onions diced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
- 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted Spanish green olives
- 4 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces gruyere cheese grated
- 4 ounces thinly shaved prosciutto
- 1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water egg wash
- Flour for dusting
- Mix together the saffron threads and the water in a small bowl and allow to rest for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the saffron water, milk, yeast, and 1 cup of the flour at low speed until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary to incorporate the flour. Cover and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment, and add the remaining 2 cups flour, the egg, the olive oil, and the salt. Mix at low speed until a smooth dough forms around the hook, about 3 to 5 minutes. The dough should bounce back when poked when the gluten is developed enough. Lightly grease a mixing bowl with olive oil, form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight (for about 12 hours).
- Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium low heat. Add onions and salt and stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, until the onions soften and are transparent, about 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until the onions turn golden brown, about 30 to 40 more minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes in the beginning and then more frequently towards the end of the cooking process to prevent burning. When the onions are golden and fragrant, remove and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Pulse the ingredients together in a food processor until a thick and grainy paste forms— the texture should resemble very coarse hummus. Cover and set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the caramelized onions and pesto and set it aside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temp for 30 minutes. On a clean large and very lightly floured working surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle measuring 25 x 8 inches.
- Use a rubber spatula to spread the pesto-onion mixture over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the shorter ends and one of the long ends, but going up to the edge on one of the long ends.
- Evenly sprinkle the grated cheese over the dough, and repeat with the prosciutto slices, evenly covering the dough with 1 layer of thinly shaved prosciutto, leaving leaving a 1-inch border around the shorter ends and one of the long ends, but going up to the edge on one of the long ends.
- Starting at the end with the filling right up to the edge, beginning rolling up the dough to form one long cylinder. Leave the seam at the bottom of the cylinder, and press down gently on the dough to seal it. Roll the cylinder gently until it reaches 26 inches in length.
- Dip your finger in water and brush around one end of the roll cylinder. Insert that end into the other end, and compress to seal, forming a circle. Transfer the circle to a large piece of parchment paper. Grease the exterior of a 5-inch cake pan and place it in center to hold the circle shape. Cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a large baking stone inside. Lightly brush the exposed dough with the egg wash, then dust with flour.
- Hold a pair of kitchen scissors at a 45-degree angle to the parchment paper and cut deep slits in the dough about 2 inches apart, pulling the points of the slice slightly away from the wreath as you cut them to expose more of the interior of each slice. Rotate the parchment paper as you're cutting to keep the same 45-degree cutting angle. Cover loosely and allow to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To transfer the wreath bread onto the baking stone, keep the bread on the parchment paper and put it on a flat surface like a large cutting board. Open the oven, partially pull out the rack the baking stone is on, and hold the cutting board next to the baking stone, using your other hand to pull the parchment paper off the cutting board and onto the baking stone (you can also have someone else hold the cutting board to make it easier for you to pull the parchment paper + bread onto the stone).
Close the oven and bake until the crust is deeply golden and a thermometer inserted into the densest part fo the dough reads 190 degrees Fahrenheit, about 25 to 35 minutes. If the dough is browning too quickly but isn't cooked through yet, cover it with foil. Remove form the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.