You may recall that it is now September.
And by September, I mean fall. And by fall, I mean time for apple pies, chai lattes, football games, jumping in the leaves and baking things like this oh-so-adorable Owl Face Reveal Bread. Because what could be better on a cool fall day than baking a fresh loaf of sandwich bread with a surprise owl face inside, amiright?
This bread is a throwback to yesteryear when we may or may not have put a panda’s face inside a sandwich loaf, rendering many an “ooh!” and “ahh!” and other coo-like baby noises (or maybe I’m the only one that does that to my bread, I don’t know). A basic white sandwich bread is great, sure, but where’s the fun in that? So roll up your sleeves, get your game face on and make this unique (and may I also say, delicious) recipe. Your friends and family will think it’s a HOOT! (bah dum bum.)
First, prepare the dough. I went off the same recipe I used for the panda bread – with a few minor changes – which results in an enriched white bread with a nice crumb and soft crust. It also rises impeccably well and can take a lot of handling which, as you’ll find out, is pretty helpful.
When the dough is fully kneaded, it should be smooth and elastic and feel almost like slightly more malleable Play-Doh. A bit tougher than normal bread dough should be, but perfect for a recipe like this that requires a lot of shaping.
Divide the dough into three pieces: Two of equal size and one about a quarter of the size of the other two.
Using food coloring (I used gel-based coloring, but regular liquid food coloring works well, too), dye one of the larger dough pieces red, the other yellow and the small piece brown. You can either knead in the coloring by hand, use a stand mixer to help you (cleaning out the bowl between colors, obvs) or as I did, both. It might take some elbow grease to get the coloring incorporated fully, but it’ll get there!
Place the dough pieces in separate, lightly greased bowls, cover and let rise until doubled.
Once the dough is doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Cut off a small piece of the yellow dough and stretch it to form the base of the dough. It should be about 7 or 8 inches long and 2 or 3 inches wide so it can expand well in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Roll out two more equal pieces of yellow dough into logs to form the rest of the base. Place them on top of the base, using a little bit of water on your fingers if necessary to help the dough stick together.
Before I go any further, I will say this: Getting the measurements right on how much dough to use for each piece is a bit of an art form. I kind of eyeballed it as I went through. Luckily, this dough is pretty forgiving so if you mess up, you can always deconstruct what you’ve done and redo it with little damage.
Moving on–cut off a small piece of the brown dough and roll it into a thin 7-inch log. Pinch one end of the log to form it into a long triangle-ish shape, then place it pinched side down between the two yellow logs to form the beak. It should kind of look like a hot dog and bun at this point.
Use another small piece of the yellow dough, rolled out into a thin rectangle, to hold everything in place.
Take a little more of the yellow dough, divide it into three small pieces, and roll each piece into a 7-inch log. Place the logs about an inch apart from each other on top of the dough.
Now make the eyes. Divide the red dough nearly in half (one piece slightly bigger than the other), and set the larger half aside. Divide the smaller half in two and roll out each piece into a rectangle about 7 inches long, 4 inches wide.
Divide the remaining piece of brown dough in half and roll each piece into a 7-inch log. Place the long in the center lengthwise of each red rectangle and roll up the red dough around it to form the eyes.
Now place the red logs between the small yellow logs on top of the dough, using a bit of water to help the dough stick together.
Use the remaining piece of yellow dough, rolled out into a thin rectangle, to hold everything in place.
Now use the remaining half of red dough, rolled out into a thin rectangle, to cover the entire dough (sides and edges, too), so when the dough bakes up it will seal in the “secret” owl face.
Place the dough in a lightly greased loaf pan, cover and let it rise until doubled.
Bake the risen dough for about a half-hour, or until a thermometer inserted in the bottom center reads 190 degrees F and the loaf makes a hollow sound when thwacked with your fingers. Remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing. Looks like a normal bread, right? But when you slice into it…
Of course, practice makes perfect, and the more you try your hand at this loaf the better the reveal will be. Happy baking!