Normally folks in New Orleans serve their gumbo with super long (about 3 feet) soft Italian white bread loaves. The problem? Not much flavor, their super light texture just doesn't sop up the sauce very effectively, and they just have no personality. So after taking a bayou tour with a local Cajun, who, with a whistle and a bag of marshmallows, summoned up some gator visitors to thrill and scare us, I thought this loaf might add some mojo, real flavor and fun to your gumbo night!
WHAT YOU NEED:
- mixer with dough hook
- sheet pan sprayed with vegetable oil
- large bowl
- 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup bread flour (this strengthens and holds the dough's shape)
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 TB instant yeast (I use SAF)
- olive oil
- 2 large raisins or olives
- sesame seeds (I used black)
- egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 TB milk or water
- 3 drops green food coloring, if desired
1. Combine the flours, 1 1/2 cup of the water, salt and yeast in the bowl of your mixer. Mix on low with the dough hook until dough comes together and sides of bowl are clean. If dough is still shaggy add water, a TB at a time until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Continue to mix on low for 6 -8 minutes.
2. Put dough in a bowl greased with some olive oil. Cover with saran wrap and let dough relax and rise for an hour.
3. Onto a lightly floured surface, press out the dough into a 12x6 inch rectangle. Cut into 4 pieces. Pinch off 2 dime-sized pieces of dough for the eyes.
4. Roll 2 of the pieces into a jelly-roll like cylinder and place one in the middle of your pan (the "body"). With the second piece apply some pressure with your palm to one end while rolling to make a tapered "tail." Nudge this piece close to the "body."
5. Roll a third piece tightly, tapering one end and place at the front as the "head." With scissors, cut a deep slit horizontally through the tapered end. This will form the mouth. Roll up a ball of foil, spray with vegetable spray, and wedge open the mouth.
6. Cut the last piece into fours, roll each one up into a longer, narrower shape and place beneath body/tail seam and the body/head seam - forming the feet.
7. To form the eyes, flatten the tiny pieces of dough into ovals. Place an olive or raisin at one end, and bring the top of the dough 1/2 way over the "eye" to form a lid. Pinch on the sides to hold the olive or raisin in place. Wet the bottoms with a little egg wash and stick to the top of the head.
8. With your scissors, snip along the top of the body and legs to make scales, snip into the ends of the legs to make nails, and lastly snip into the ends of the mouth to form "teeth."
9. Brush this guy with egg wash (I added a little green food color to amp up the brightness). Sprinkle with sesame seeds (or cajun spice or dried herbs if you desire). Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Remove the foil, and if you want, replace with a marshmallow - they're the gator's dream snack!
KIDDOCJJ Tip: This would be an amazing centerpiece (or make more for a larger table) for a gumbo party. Add some shiny beads, feathers and masks, and then tear these gators apart when you serve your gumbo.