This Saint Patrick's Day, I thought I would try something fun and make a four-leaf clover loaf stuffed with spinach and feta.
I really have my mother-in-law to blame for putting the idea in my head. About a year ago she sent me a link to a Nutella filled star bread. Ever since I saw it, I thought a spinach filled savory star would rock and I was right.
First step is making the dough. I like to utilize my stand mixer with a dough hook to do most of the kneading and then I finish kneading by hand. It only takes a few minutes.
I knead the dough until it feels uniform and springs back after I press down lightly. I find the mixer can sometimes be a little uneven. I make a lot of bread, so I invested in a dough rising bin - but any large bowl will do, lightly covered. The dough rests for about an hour to an hour and a half.
When the bread is almost done with it's rise, I make the filling. I like to put the spinach in the fridge overnight to make sure it is really defrosted. (Hmm, so I guess that is the first, first step.) The spinach needs to have a good squeeze to get the excess water out. Extra water will make the bread soggy.
A quick whirl in the food processor and the filling is all set. It is a little dry and that is a good thing. It should be spreadable but not wet.
When the bread is ready and more than doubled - it's time to divide it into five equal parts.
I roll out the first layer into a circle, about 1/8" thick. I like to make sure it will be large enough by marking it with a 9" cake pan, that is what I use as my guide for the size of the loaf. It will be trimmed later.
Carefully transfer the dough to either a parchment lined or sil pad lined cookie sheet. Then it's time to add filling. Try not to get the filling too close to the edge. There are four layers of filling, so I use about a quarter of the filling for each layer. Then I repeat three more times.
For the top layer, the fifth and final one, I thought it would be fun to work a bit of green food coloring into the dough. It was close to St. Patrick's Day, it was cheesy, I admit it. I liked the marble effect so I didn't work it all the way through.
Once all the layers are lined up, I take my trusty 9" cake pan and trim around the edge. If you are cutting directly on the sil pad, just make sure you use something that won't cut through your pad. I have this nifty plastic pizza cutter that does the job well. I then mark the center with a small bowl or ramekin.
I cut the circle into 12 equal sections, making sure not to cut through the middle.
Three of the sections make up each "leaf". I start by taking one section and carefully folding it over the section next to it.
Then lightly fold over the section next to it like you would a braid.
Next fold over the bottom piece over the last piece and fold the ends under, pinching them closed.
I repeat with the other three leaves so that I have four woven leaves.
Now I take some of the scraps from when I trimmed the loaf into a circle. I took a couple pieces and wind them around each other. Then I attach them between two of the leaves by pinching the dough together.
I had a lot of scraps this time so I tied a few into knots for some rolls. The loaf gets to rest again for about a half and hour and then gets an egg wash before putting it into the oven at 350° for 28 to 30 minutes.
I made two of these this year – one loaf for each workplace. ;) The loaf was very popular with my husband's and my workmates. Hopefully it will be popular with your family as well.
Spinach and Feta 4 Leaf Clover Bread
Spinach and Feta filled loaf shaped like a 4 leaf clover. Serves 12.
- 1 cup warm water (110°-120°)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons (42g) honey
- 2 cups (240g) bread flour
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter (melted)
- 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
- 10 oz package frozen spinach (thawed and water pressed out)
- 1 clove garlic
- 100 grams (approx. 2/3 cup) crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup onion (minced)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (or to taste)
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. To make the bread: Combine the water, honey, yeast and bread flour in the bowl of a stand mixer (make sure the water is not too hot). Mix with a spatula until just combined. Let this mixture sit while you prep the other ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the all purpose flour and salt. Melt the butter in a small bowl and let it cool slightly. Add the flour, salt, butter, and egg to the yeast mixture. Mix to combine. Set the bowl in a stand mixer with the dough hook. Knead on low speed for about 5 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the bowl looks almost clean.
3. Take out the dough and knead it for another minute or so on a well floured board. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back slightly when you press it.
4. Let the dough rest in a greased bowl covered with a towel or loose lid at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half (or until the dough has at least doubled in size).
Filling: While the dough rests, make the filling.
5. In a food processor, pulse the garlic clove until it is uniformly minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse to combine. The mixture should still seem a little on the dry side. Set aside.
Shape the loaf:
6. Punch down the dough and knead on a floured board for around a minute, then divide into 5 equal parts.
7. Roll the first of five parts into a circle. The dough should be roughly the size of a 9" cake pan (maybe a little larger) and about 1/8" thick. Transfer the circle onto a lined cookie sheet. (do your best to keep the shape, the dough will want to contract a bit).
8. Using your 9" cake pan, mark out the edge of your dough (when it is all filled we are going to trim the excess from the circle). Carefully spread out your spinach filling in a thin layer almost to the edge of the circle. (You should use about a quarter of the filling per layer - there are four layers of filling).
9. Roll out another layer of dough, place it on the previous one and spread out your spinach layer as before. Repeat with the next two layers.
10. Optional: for your final, top layer - for a truly St. Patrick's Day feel you can add a drop or two of green gel food coloring and knead it into your final layer of dough. (I left mine with a marble effect rather than kneading it all the way in).
11. Place your final layer on top of your previous ones and cover it with your cake pan. Trim the edges around the outside so you have a nice circle. (If you are using a sil pad like me, make sure you are trimming your dough with something safe for cutting on a sil pad, like my plastic pizza dough cutter).
12. Mark the center of your circle with a 1/2 cup ramekin or similar small bowl.
13. Cutting from your circle mark to the edge, cut your circle into four quarters. (Do not cut into your inner circle). Then, cut each quarter into three parts. At the end you should have 12 equal parts.
14. Now take one quarter and carefully braid the three layers, you will only be able to overlap a couple times. Pinch the edge closed. Repeat with the three other sections until you have four "leaves".
15. Take some of your trimmings and roll it into a two logs (or worms I guess) about 6" long. Twist the logs together. Now take your twisted piece and pinch it together between two of the leaves for a stem. Allow the loaf to rise, loosely covered with a tea towel for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°.
16. Lightly beat the egg with the tablespoon of water to make the egg wash. Brush the surface of the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with some fine sea salt. Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating half way through, until the loaf is nicely golden brown. Enjoy warm.