Can you imagine these little birdies peeking out of a bread basket? Or on the edge of a salad plate? Pretty adorable, right?
Like any shaped bread, you'll never get two that look exactly alike, but that's part of the charm. They'll rise differently before baking, and they'll rise differently in the oven. It's unpredictably fun. And every once in a while, you'll get one that looks just plain weird. Hey, not all birds are born the same, right?
The hardest part is getting the eyes and beak to behave. The rising dough wants to push them out, so you need to insert them a lot farther in than seems right. And then give them another little push right before they go into the oven.
I wanted to use completely edible items for the whole birdie, so I used slivered almonds for the beaks and chocolate pearls for the eyes. I was a little concerned the eyes might melt and make a mess, but it actually worked. The pearls are chocolate-coated crunchy cereal, so they had some substance. Something more solid, like a peppercorn, would probably work better as an eye, but most folks don't want to bite into a peppercorn. A piece of black olive or a bit of dried fruit could also work. Just look around your kitchen and see what you have that would be edible and suitable!
The bread is just slightly sweet; not like a sweet breakfast roll, more like a slightly sweet dinner roll. They're great with spicy food, barbecue, or just a simple dab of butter. Or really just any meal that needs some adorable bread.
- 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup orange juice, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 11 1/4 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Chocolate pearls (for eyes)
- Slivered almonds (for beaks)
Combine water, orange juice, sugar, yeast, and bread flour in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add salt and olive oil, and continue kneading until they are completely incorporated and dough is smooth, silky, shiny and elastic, about 5 minutes longer. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Knead briefly, then divide into 8 even pieces. Take one of the pieces and cut off about 1/4 of the dough. Form that smaller piece into a ball. Form the other piece into a teardrop shape.
Make a divot in the fat part of the teardrop-shaped piece, but not too close to the edge as shown in the photo.
Place the ball on top of the teardrop shaped piece on top of that divot you just made.
Place this on the baking sheet, with the pointy end facing the center of the sheet. This will make it easier to work in the face later. Continue until all the birds are shaped. Cover the birds with plastic wrap and set aside until nearly doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes in the first bird's head where you want the eyes and beak. Insert the eyes and beak, pushing them well into the dough. Keep in mind that they don't all need to be facing straight forward - you can position the faces so they're looking up, down, or to the side.
Continue with the rest of the birds, until all of them have eyes and beaks. Cover them with plastic wrap and let them continue rising until doubled—another 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how long it took to get the faces finished. Uncover the birds again, and if the eyes and beaks have started protruding, push them back in again.
Bake until the birds are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Remove the birds from the baking sheet and put them on a rack to cool. If the eyes and beaks need to be pushed back in again, do so while the buns are still warm. Let them cool completely on the rack if you're not serving them right away.