The photo above, which you’ll also find on our latest issue’s cover, shows one of my favorite moments from this summer so far.
I shot the photo at my parents’ summer cottage this midsummer as my mom and dad, all of my brothers and their families as well as two of my grandparents were gathered to enjoy the cold and light summer night together.
The midsummer bonfire was down to embers, well past its fierce beginning but still full of energy.
We chatted. We threw small pieces of wood into the fire. We took lots of photos. And we baked bread.
Yes. I’m always mixing bread making into the lives of my family members…
A year ago, I experimented with baking bread in a cast iron pot stowed in the bonfire (the bread got baked, but it was also pretty burned from the top and a little doughy from the bottom).
This year, I wanted to involve everyone – especially the children – in the bread making.
I had just chatted with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, great baker and author you’ll meet in the magazine issue, about baking bread with children and decided to see if I could inspire the group to have some fun around bread.
Applying Emmanuel’s tips, I chose a bread that required no preparation from anyone but me and provided quick gratification. And a chance to play with fire!
We collected fresh sticks from the forest, rolled the dough around them, and baked the bread on the bonfire. Some of the breads were charred black. Others were doughy from the inside. My mom wouldn’t stop eating the dough straight from the bowl. Everyone had a great time.
And the next day, the children asked me if we could do this again.
When making this bread, the dough is almost secondary: the experience of baking the bread around the fire is what matters.
So, feel free to use any kind of yeasted bread dough you like. We went with a sweet version based on the Finnish sweet bun, pulla, adding milk, sugar, an egg and some butter. That said, there’s nothing wrong with using just flour, water, yeast and salt. To account for the missing second fermentation (no way could I imagine the kids waiting for the dough to rise again after rolling it around the stick), I decided to add more yeast than I normally would.
If you try a sourdough version, I’m curious to hear how it went…
Here’s how we made the bread:
- In a bowl, mix all ingredients except the butter until evenly mixed.
- Take the dough out of the bowl, then work it on the table for five minutes, or until the dough starts to become smooth and elastic.
- Add the butter in small pieces, then knead the dough for another five minutes to fully incorporate the butter in the dough.
- Put the dough back in its bowl, cover, and leave to rest until about doubled in size (45 minutes to an hour, depending on temperature).
- While the dough is resting, gather your group of bakers and light the fire. Use the time to tell a story or share a few good laughs.
- When the dough (and the fire) is ready, take a piece of dough (roughly 100 grams, but as we’re baking outdoors, it’s perfectly OK to eyeball it) and gently shape it into a stick, about the width of your index finger.
- Starting from the tip of the stick, roll your dough around it. Bend the ends of the dough under itself to lock the dough and keep the bun from falling from the stick as it is being baked.
- Bake the bread. Be careful not to bring it too close to the fire so it won’t burn… Unless you like a burned bun, that is.
- Enjoy straight from the stick, with some jam if you like.