The reason why I am talking about these sweet creatures is that, October 4th is celebrated as the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. "World Animal Day" is known internationally and has now gone beyond being the celebration of a Christian saint and is today observed by animal lovers of all beliefs, nationalities and backgrounds. The origin of this holiday started in Florence, Italy in 1931.
My recipe this week is called “Orsi Piccoli”, in Italian, which means “Little Bears.” This scrumptious, soft, warm homemade bread is in the shape of a teddy bear. It is courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito. It is a perfect way to celebrate the feast of St. Francis and “World Animal Day”.
1 1/3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup of sugar
5 - 5 1/4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
Brown sugar for sprinkling
Raisins or currants
In a saucepan, bring the milk almost to a boil. Let cool until warm (110° to 115° F).
Pour the mild into a large bowl, add the yeast plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar and stir to blend. Cover and let proof for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.
In another bowl, mix 5 cups flour, the salt, and the remaining sugar together. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture until is resembles coarse meal. Slowly add the yeast mixture, and mix with your hands until a ball of dough is formed, adding additional flour only if the dough is very sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Lightly butter a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Grease two cookie sheets. Punch down the dough and divide it into 24 equal pieces. Use 4 pieces for each bear. Roll 3 pieces if dough into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place the balls of dough together in a line on one of the cookie sheets, as if making a snowman. One for the head, one for the upper body, and one for the lower body. Divide the fourth piece of dough into 7 pieces for the ears, nose, feet, and hands, and attach to the bear. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the bears 3 inches apart on the sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. insert raisins or currants into the heads for the bear’s eyes. Brush the bears with the egg wash and sprinkle the bodies with the brown sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful when you take them off of the cookie sheets. You do not want them to crack. Cool on wire racks, and then tie ribbons around the necks. Makes: 6 bears.
Note: You can make more bears by using smaller pieces of dough.
In memory of my sweet cat, “Angel Kitty” 1998-2008. He was my friend and the love of my life. I know that someday I will see him again, near our special spot, under the tree.
Till Next Time…………
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