garden advice cornwall

Making a sheaf of wheat from bread dough

Over many parts of the world the sheaf of wheat is a traditional symbol associated with harvest time or thanks giving.
In Cornwall our harvest time is usually celebrated in September, after the long spring and summer growing season.
I'm not sure how many years the tradition of the making the bread sheaf of wheat has been carried out here in Cornwall, I have been fortunate enough to learn this process from a local bakery ' Eddy's ' in Newlyn. Here bread was hand crafted for nearly a century, I worked there for fifteen years, unfortunately this family run business closed in 2005.
The bread sheaf of wheat is an ideal addition to a charity auction or charity event, it's surprising how much money they can make.

Dough recipe

Water.......400 ml
Egg ( for glazing )
mixing the bread dough

If you're making a sheaf at home I would suggest using the combination of dried yeast and cold water in the dough mix.
The process of cutting the wheat ears can be time consuming, so making a slow proving dough will reduce the risk of over proved spent dough ( or an unrecognisable blob ) .

Mixing the dough
Add the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix together. After which pour the cold water onto the flour and mix with a spatula until a solid dough lump forms.
Transfer the dough onto the work surface and knead thoroughly for ten minutes. You should end up with a nice firm dough as in the fig 1 to the right...
doughFig 1...  
Leave the dough to rest for about five minutes in a cool location. Then spit the dough into two pieces, approx 60/40 in proportion. The smallest piece will be used for the base, allocating a smaller piece for the base should ensure you have enough dough for the topping decoration.

Roll the base out to a thickness of about 6mm and cut into a mushroom shape as in fig 2.

Transfer the base onto a greased baking tray and prick the entire surface with a fork. We then brush over the surface of the dough with water, this will help the stems and wheat ears bond.

The base should then look something like fig 3...
shaoed sheafFig 2 ... trayed sheaf of wheatFig 3 ...
4..Roll out thin strips strips of dough, these will represent the wheat stalks and should be placed on the base as below..
making the sheaf stems
5..Pinch off small pieces of dough and make lots of pea size dough balls..

rolls balls to make the leaves
5..Shape the small balls, by rolling them with the palm of your hand on the work surface..

shaping leaves
6..With a shape scissors it's now time to cut the ears of wheat, staggering cuts either side..

cutting the leaves with a scissors
7..The ears of wheat sould then look something like this...
the finished cut leaf
8..Place the cut ears onto the base, working from the outside inwards...
starting the sheaf of wheat on the tray

9..Another row is completed...

next step

10..Nearly there, only the middle to fill...
more leaves on the sheaf of wheat
fibished sheaf of wheat After the final ears have been place on the sheaf, make a small pleat and place over the middle of the stems. You can even make a small mouse if you have time. When the sheaf is finished, glaze with egg and leave in a warm place to prove. When the dough has proved bake in an oven at 180ยบ c for approx 30 minutes.

Here is my finished product to the right, it was a little over proved, I was making roast dinner for six at the same time...
baked sheaf of wheat
pleated dough If your feeling adventurous why not make a plait aswell.....

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