Hefenkrantz, a German bread that comes from the edge of the Black Forest and literally means “Yeast Wreath,” it is traditionally sweet bread with raisins.
My adaptation = a savory, edible centerpiece, the wreath shown above was baked for our Christmas dinner one year; I make us one every holiday season and gift a few as well.
After the wreath is baked and cooled it can be wrapped in foil, placed in an airtight plastic bag and frozen until you are ready to give it away. Add some whipped butter on the side and it’s the perfect gift.
Test Kitchen Notes
This was the perfect recipe for those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone has herbs lying around, leftover from stuffing recipes. The baking wreath smells cozy, and when it's done it makes your table look just as festive as the rest of your house. I made the full recipe but split it in half to make two small wreaths, one to eat now and one to freeze for later. As you'd expect, with the dry milk and the butter, it's a tender and finely grained loaf. Mine wasn't as strongly herb-flavored as I'd hoped for, but I played it a little safe in the measurements (especially with the rosemary). Next time I make it—and there will be a next time—I'll go all out. My first loaf has been half dedicated to eating out of hand, and I suspect the remainder will be split between sandwiches and maybe a savory bread pudding. It makes a lot of bread, but trust me—you'll want it all. —emmanation
In a small bowl, mix the dry milk, salt, malt powder, 2 tablespoons pecorino and rosemary-thyme together and set aside until needed.
Break the eggs into a two-cup measure and fill the balance with warm water.
Pour into a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add and dissolve the agave nectar and yeast. Let sit 5-10 minutes.
When the yeast mixture is bubbly add the dry milk mixture.
Blend in the butter with a wooden spoon as well as you can, it will be lumpy, that’s ok.
Blend in 3 cups of the flour, don’t worry about lumps.
Work in, by hand or with a food processor and dough hook, between 2 & 3 more cups flour, or until you have a soft but workable dough.
Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Let the dough rest a couple minutes.
Then, continue kneading another 3 or 4 minutes. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until doubled. Punch it down and let it rise again.
After the second rise, punch the dough down, and divide into three even pieces.
Roll each piece into a rope about 25 to 30 inches long. Lay the ropes side by side, beginning from the middle, and braid one end of the rope then the other. When the second half of the loaf is braided, form a circle, weaving the two ends together as well as you can.
Place the wreath on a large baking sheet lined with greased parchment, cover and let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
NOTE: I place an inverted, buttered ramekin in the center to leave a space for added decoration.
Before baking, brush the surface with melted butter. Scatter a handful of pecorino cheese over the top.
Place in a COLD oven; turn the temperature to 400 degrees for 15 minutes and down to 350 degrees for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
Immediately after taking out of oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle another handful of Pecorino cheese. Move to a rack to cool.
After thoroughly cooled place in an airtight plastic bag until it is time to serve. This can also be frozen until needed.