Hello everyone, and welcome to an exciting edition of Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them, where the food is tasty and the puns are flatter than a bad souffle (*Ba dum tsh*). Anyroad, it’s been a long time coming and I am pleased to share with you the first (of many) Game of Thrones-themed recipes to sate that need for some “fantasy” foods.
And since my name is a play on the “Fenris wolf,” I think it’s high time that you all learn that I am a fan of House Stark so I just had to make a batch of Dire Wolf Bread. The North remembers–and sometimes some whimsy, even in the form of a mishapen, sweet wolf loaf, can help even the hardest of hearts remember the good times.
Now before we begin, did you know that there are people paid to make food look good? Beyond any culinary research into a show’s time period or basic food know-how, there are food stylists who not only carefully and artfully arrange food so that they look appealing for photo or video, but to also doctor up food to be used as props and not look “fake”.
Like, okay, let’s take a pretty popular example: Downton Abbey is a fan-favorite not only for its period-piece melodrama, but some fans have become obsessed with the edible appeal of the dining habits of the British uppercrust. There are several gorgeous scenes of people feasting together, with lavish examples of the era like salmon mousse and oysters glistening under the camera lights. But though the food looks good, appearances are deceiving and fair is foul and fowl is fair; a lot of the seafood dishes are actually made with chicken meat. Downton Abbey food stylist, Lisa Heathcote, explains that she had to cook upw alternate ways to prepare seafood for long shoots and do-overs–especially because they’d start to smell after a while of sitting uneaten.
So to avoid smelly sets and unhappy actors, the obvious solution would be to fashion fish out of something else entirely.
Now this little anecdote is a very long segue into my thought process for this recipe… While we were all sniffling about Hot Pie’s (somewhat) tearful good-bye with Arya Stark by gifting her with this lumpy Dire Wolf, I was racking my brain trying to figure out what kind of bread recipe you’d need to get something to hold its shape like that. I ruled out that the food crew might have actually used a shortbread or a cracker–I mean the sentiment is there, no one besides me actually cares if it was edible or if it was actually a type of bread right.
So, I improvised–the following recipe is not, by any means, an accurate recreation of the shaped bread as depicted in the show–BUT the sentiment is there. Since I wanted to make a wolf-shaped loaf of tasty bread, I scoured the Internet for “shaped animal loaves” and came across some enlightening recipes and suggestions. From crocodiles to teddy bears, sea turtles and hedgehogs, you can basically make most bread recipes into an animal; though I will note that “blobby” animals that can easily be simplified in form seem to easily retain their shapes better than anything detailed. (Hence, why HBO’s team might have gone with a short bread or cracker recipe)
Still, as a former baker’s apprentice, I think Hot Pie would be kind of proud of my attempts at bread baking (He’d probably also have some other choice and rude comments to make but well, not everyone’s perfect) Oh and, if you want some more of his choice words and some feels to tide you over, you can watch this not-really-spoilery clip below:
Alright, so that’s enough errata–now let’s get on with the baking and delve into the magical world of shaped breads, an especially useful skill for all your fandom needs!
Recipe adapted from Sweet Happy Life’s Teddy Bear Chalalh
You will need the following:
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast (Basically, about one packet)
- 1 cup of warm milk, and an extra splash for the eggwash
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, plus 1 for the eggwash
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil plus about 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting your hands and work surface
1. In a large bowl, combine your milk and your yeast and let sit for 4-5 minutes to get the yeast activated. Also, be sure your milk is just at warm; too hot and we might kill the little buggers, and we need them to give our wolf some lift. (Remember, all men must die, but not all yeast)
2. After you let your yeast proof, add the sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract, olive oil, honey, and stir to combine. Then, add about 1 cup of flour, and mix until smooth.
3. Now, here comes a bit of a tricky part–especially if you’re not used to bread dough. Right now it should come together nice and smooth, so let’s add more flour in 1/2 cup increments until we reach 4 cups. As you stir in the flour, you’ll notice the way the dough comes together and gets a bit sticky, that’s fine, what you’re looking for is when the dough starts to clump together so that it becomes a pliable mass instead of a liquid mass. I actually stopped at 4 cups and felt that the dough was workable enough that I turned it out–just make sure that it’s solid enough to work, and not runny like water.
4. At this stage, turn out your dough onto a floured work surface–and flour up your hands, too, because we are going to knead. For a refresher course, check out this video for reference. And believe me, I don’t bake bread as much, so watching a video for some help is a-okay! So, knead for about 4 minutes, until the bread is smooth and NOT sticky and it bounces back when you press down into it.
Now that you’ve tamed the dough beast, put it in a SLIGHTLY greased bowl and allow it to rise and grow double in bulk for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature.
5. Once your dough is proofed and doubled in size, punch it back down, and now… Get ready for the “fun” part–shaping out the bread wolf.
I have made a diagram below of my method for rolling out the dough, but basically thanks to my Playdoh skills and a pair of sharp scissors, I was able to cut and shape out my wolf with just a little dough left over for a normal ball of challah bread.
Next you just need to add some optional raisins for the eye and nose annnnd — now you’ve got your very own bread wolf, yay!
Let this little Lady chill out at room temperature to rise again, for 30 to 40 minutes this time. Please note that while it came out nice and uh, “wolfish” right now, I am also accounting for a bit of rise and spillage–this lean wolf will probably be a bit chubby at the end, so try to get your details in now to give it a wolf-ish shape, at least.
Anyway, after you let it proof, you’re ready to set this wolf aflame–I mean, you’re ready to bake it.
6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and set your wolf on the second rack in the oven, if possible. Then bake for 35-40 minutes and get ready to sink your teeth into a very tasty, and kind of cute bread!
Like I said, a little chubby, and the tail certainly could use some work, but the little snips at the paws create cute claws, at least. :’) Again, this is probably why the HBO team went with what I think is a cookie or a cracker to get a better, sturdier wolf shape, but this recipe makes a very satisfying treat. The bread itself is soft, but it holds up to extras like butter and jam (Definitely try to eat it ASAP), and it is toothsome with a light taste of vanilla and honey–as well as a strong aftertaste of honor and tragedy in equal measure.
Also, it’s a pretty cute novelty treat–perfect for Game of Thrones fans who want a light-hearted kick out of their food, instead of the usual suspects, like poison.
And that’s all there is to this fantastic feast–tune in next time when we make fantasy a delightfully edible reality!