Stenciling your loaves is one VERY easy thing you can do to make yourself look like a true artisan baker. It is so funny how something so ridiculously simple can elicit such awe from a table full of hungry people.
Stenciling involves placing a flat, patterned object (most commonly a leaf or flower) on top of your loaf, then dusting the loaf lightly with flour. When the stencil is removed, the pattern stays, and looks beautiful after the loaf is baked. Unfortunately I have never been able to hang on to a stenciled loaf long enough to photograph it, but here are some great examples of stenciling (not mine) that I found online:
In the loaf above, they used an actual flexible art stencil for their bread (that’s the red thing next to the loaf). Beautiful!
My stencils have always comprised of pretty leaves or flowers from the backyard, but today I came across a photo of something that I’m just gonna have to try. This woman stenciled cupcakes, but the technique would look gorgeous on bread!
Want to give stenciling a shot? Here is the simple process:
- Follow your recipe through the final rise. At this point your bread should be shaped and in the pan (or on the sheet/stone) and ready for the oven.
- With a squirt gun set to mist, lightly dampen the surface of your bread.
- Place the stencil on top of the moistened loaf.
- Sprinkle flour across your stencil, as lightly or heavily as you prefer.
- Remove the stencil, and bake your bread.
One tip: should you be of the rare sort that likes to bake with rice flour, don’t try using it for stenciling. Rice flour does a really good job of slipping off after the loaf is finished baking.