Bread of the Month: Hopping away with cuteness

For me, the whole “back-of-the-bunny” (aka “bunny butt”) concept came early, at the kitchen table in marathon Easter egg coloring sessions the day before the big bunny arrived. We had our cups and bowls full of Paas egg dye and crayons to create the wax designs on some of the eggs. Our mom’s design was always the same, simple and crude, but quite funny…a bunny from behind, fluffy tail and even sometimes a trail of droppings beneath it. 

Our mom’s bunny behind signature cartoon carried on in the form of drawings she sent in cards, particularly after I grew up and moved away and became a parent to a succession of beloved house bunnies.

I had seen “bunny butt” on baked goods, such as cakes and cookies, but became aware of it as a bread design possibility when I attended the National Festival of Breads held in Manhattan, Kan., in June of 2019 (the festival is held every other year and will be virtual in 2021…for more info, go to https://nfb2021.com). The festival featured various demos and informational sessions on — you guessed it — bread, and placed throughout the festival venue were whimsically shaped breads for every season of the year, from witches to wheat stalks and included spring and Easter with sheep and bunny shapes, including a delightful back-of-the-bunny that reminded me so much of my mom’s renderings. I was reminded of the festival and the breads this spring and decided the little bunnies would be a perfect bread to try for March.

The National Festival of Breads website provides recipes (for both white and wheat breads) and directions for shaping the bunny breads as well as other designs (you’ll find it here: https://nationalfestivalofbreads.com/recipes/hopping-bunnies?fbclid=IwAR3CtspYmaF5W5Ed5SU6793Ra92BNhiVp9TlqdUylaHtxAb621ALjE8r5xM). I chose the white bread version, which is slightly sweetened, and begins with a proofing of yeast in warm water with a little sugar.

In a stand mixer, butter is creamed with more sugar, to which some salt, an egg, some cooled scalded milk and the blooming yeast is added. 

Enough flour is gradually added to make.a substantial, yet pliable dough that can either be kneaded by hand or given the hook (I chose the hook).

After about eight minutes of kneading, the dough is placed in a greased bowl, and then allowed to raise until doubled in size. My tip: turn oven on to a low temp (below 200), then turn it off and leave the door open for a few minutes. Then place your cover bowl of dough into the warmed oven for its rising time.

After the dough has risen, it can be punched down and shaped, or, placed in the refrigerator until ready to use (this is handy). I refrigerated mine for an afternoon until I could get to the shaping.

I was eager to shape the bunnies-from-behind, which were essentially — after the dough was divided into even pieces — dough rolled into the lengths, with a little cut off for the tails. 

The dough was looped once, then twisted once, making sure to leave the top ends open and pinched at the end for ears, then a small ball placed in the loop for the bunnies’ tails. 

Another bunny shaping has you take dough rolled out into long lengths, divide the dough so you make one large coil and one smaller coil, two ears and a tail, pressing all the pieces together to form a sideview bunny.

Iended up with 12 bunnies-from-behind and six sideview bunnies….a lot, but I didn’t really want to halve the recipe (the more, the merrier, when it comes to bunnies). The bunnies proofed for awhile until they puffed up.

Then they baked up to a beautiful golden brown. How cute! I am glad I took the time to turn bread into bunnies…sometimes these things make you feel like you might really have some skills.

The bread was light and delicious, just slightly sweet, and I considered turning future versions of the recipe into garlic buns or maybe sweet buns with some type of glaze. But these were just dandy with a little butter.

My mother would approve of both bunny designs, but I know which view would be her preference. Her Easter signature is still alive and well.

For the recipe and shaping instructions, go to https://nationalfestivalofbreads.com/recipes/hopping-bunnies?fbclid=IwAR3CtspYmaF5W5Ed5SU6793Ra92BNhiVp9TlqdUylaHtxAb621ALjE8r5xM.

The National Festival of Breads will be held June 9 in a virtual platform. For more information about the event, go to https://nfb2021.com.

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