Turkey Bread

This edible Thanksgiving centerpiece--a turkey made with a simple sweet dough--might be more impressive than the bird itself. Your guests will gobble it up. (We had to say it!)
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 20 min (includes standing and cooling times)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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Ingredients

3/4 cup whole milk

Two 2 1/4-ounce packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for serving

3 large eggs, at room temperature

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (see Cook?s Note)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup heavy cream

Red gel food coloring

Yellow gel food coloring

Orange gel food coloring

2 milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it just begins to simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool to 115 degrees F. Stir in the yeast and let stand until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the sugar, butter and 2 of the eggs and stir until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium high and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line the back of a baking sheet with parchment. Whisk together the heavy cream and remaining egg for an egg wash. 
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into an 11-inch circle. 
  5. For the neck and head: Using shears, cut a 6-inch slit from the top of the circle down the left side of the circle, 1-inch in from the side. Pinch in 4 inches from the top of the dough strip. The top of the strip will be the turkey head and the bottom will be the neck. Fold the head over the top of the neck. Adjust and refine the neck and head shapes by slightly thinning the neck and pressing the head into a rounder, flatter shape, pulling the tip of the dough out to create a pointed beak. 
  6. For the wings, wattle and feet: Trim off a 7-by-2-inch strip of dough from the bottom right edge of the dough curve. Cut the strip into 6 long triangles. Form 4 of them into long teardrop shapes for the wings and wattle. Make feet from the 2 remaining triangles by cutting 2 short slits on the short ends of the triangles. Pinch and slightly stretch the 3 dough strips on each triangle to make toes. Set the feet, wings and wattle aside. 
  7. For the tail feathers: Working along the top two-thirds of the dough circle, use kitchen shears to snip 1-inch-wide strips of dough down toward the middle of the circle (sort of like rays of the sun). Make 2 shallow snips into each strip so that they form spikes; the spikes should point outward to the edge of the circle. Pinch the ends of each feather to a point.
  8. For the coloring: Brush the turkey head, neck and body--but not the tail feathers--with the egg wash. Divide the remaining egg wash among three bowls and color them red, orange, and yellow with gel food coloring. 
  9. Brush 2 of the reserved teardrop shapes with the red egg wash. Tuck the narrow end of 1 red teardrop under the turkey head for the wattle (it will sit on the neck). Put aside the second red teardrop.
  10. Brush the 2 remaining teardrops orange and yellow. Arrange the orange, yellow and remaining red teardrops in a fan to make a wing. Place the wing on the turkey near the base of the neck. 
  11. Brush the 2 feet with the yellow egg wash and tuck them under the body at the bottom of the circle. Brush the tip of the turkey's beak with the yellow egg wash. Brush the tips of the turkey tail feathers with yellow egg wash. Brush the center of the feathers with the orange wash. And brush the base of the feathers with the red wash, making sure the lines are in an arc.  
  12. Bake until the bread is slightly golden brown and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. While the bread is still warm, press the chocolate chips into the face of the turkey to make eyes. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a serving platter. Serve warm with butter. 

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)

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