As a novice baker, the only thing I love more than achieving a wider crumb on the inside of every new homemade sourdough loaf is mastering a fun new technique for how to make the crusty bread look just as appealing on the outside. Don't get me wrong, the traditional method of scoring a sourdough loaf while in its final stage of proofing does create a stunning "ear" at the top of the dough if done correctly, and there are many beautiful patterns one could carve with a sharp razor or "lame" (pronounced "lah-mm") into the sides of a loaf before it goes into the oven, but my favorite way to get creative with my sourdough is to change the shape of each loaf entirely, according to the season.
My first attempt at completely changing the shape of a prebaked sourdough loaf was a pumpkin-shaped bread inspired by TikTok user @cottageloaves' viral tutorial, and the results were just as adorable as they were delicious. After successfully making my first pumpkin loaf, I accepted that I'd probably be making a lot more later in the year as edible decor for my Thanksgiving dinner table, but a new holiday-themed loaf shape was recently uploaded by the same TikTok user who shared the sourdough pumpkins, and it is somehow even more on theme for Thanksgiving than even the pumpkins were.
To make this turkey bread, I used my own pumpkin spice sourdough recipe for the base dough, then implemented the steps shared by @cottageloaves to carve the dough into a turkey just after its final proof, or right before placing it in the oven. You can use your own trusted sourdough recipe, too, but I would highly encourage you to add a few teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice if you're going with an unflavored dough for a darker finish and a warmer, fall flavor in your bread. A little extra pumpkin pie spice sprinkled on the exterior of your dough right before it goes into the oven will also give the finished turkey bread a true "roasted" look. Also, the more structure the dough has, the easier it will be to carve it into a turkey shape, so make sure to do at least three "stretch and folds" with 60-minute rests in between until the dough is strong enough to keep its shape.
This recipe makes 2 loaves, which is helpful when it comes to attempting the turkey shape for the first time, but you can always scale it in half for just 1 turkey loaf.
- For the levain:
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon sourdough starter
1/2 cup purified water
3/4 cup + 1/2 teaspoon flour
- For the autolyse:
3 cups + 2 tablespoons purified water
7 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 tablespoons AP flour
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup + 1 1/2 teaspoons ripe, bubbly starter
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 24 hours before you start building your dough, feed your live starter using the ratio listed under "levain" above. Let the fed starter sit at room temperature for 12 hours, then discard all but 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of starter and feed it again using the same proportions of water and flour used in the first feeding.
- The next day, before touching your starter, combine the water, flour, and pumpkin spice listed under "autolyse." Let the autolyse mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before adding the ripe (bubbly) starter. You can test your starter's ripeness by dropping about 1 tablespoon in a cup of cold water; if it floats, it's ready to be added to the autolyse mixture. If it sinks, leave it for another 30 minutes and then test it again.
- Pour the starter into the autolyse mixture, and combine the ingredients by hand until everything is evenly incorporated. Add salt and mix again, then rest for 10 minutes.
- After the dough has rested for 10 minutes, knead by hand or using a dough hook attachment on an electric mixer for approximately 10 minutes. You'll know that your bread is sufficiently kneaded if you can stretch a small piece of dough enough to see light come through without tearing the dough (this is called the windowpane test).
- When your dough has been sufficiently kneaded, turn it out into a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it rest at room temperature for 60 minutes.
- After resting for 60 minutes, wet your hands and grab the dough from underneath. Stretch it up toward you until one side of the dough dislodges from the bowl, then fold it onto itself. Turn the bowl 90°, then repeat the "stretch and fold" process again. Cover and let rest for 60 minutes.
- Repeat step 6 at least 2 more times, ideally more, so the dough has rested for a total of 3 hours after the first stretch and fold. You will notice the dough becoming more elastic with each stretch and fold.
- When your dough is paler in color, smooth, and elastic, turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Cut the dough in half, and preshape each portion of dough into a "boul," or a rounded disk. Cover the preshaped dough as is, and let it rest on the counter for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, turn the preshaped dough over so the smooth side is touching the counter. Fold the dough into a tighter ball using the steps outlined above, then place each portion of dough into separate well-floured bowls, seam side up. Cover and let rest for 60-90 minutes. This is your bread's final proofing stage.
- When the shaped dough has doubled in size, place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, remove your chilled, shaped dough balls from the fridge. Set the oven to the highest temperature it can go to, and place your dutch oven inside to heat up.
- Place a piece of wax-free parchment paper on the counter, and sprinkle with flour. Turn the dough upside down onto the parchment paper, so the smooth side of the dough is facing up.
- To shape the turkey, start by making 2 equal-size cuts into the upper sides of the boule so one end of the wing is still attached to the boule while the other is separated, then fold the wings up and over the top of the dough, pointing the tips of the wings downward. For the legs, slice a "V" into the lower half of the boule, then remove the 2 segments on the outside of the V entirely and shape them into chicken legs. Adhere them back to the outside of the V, overlapping the ends to look like a trussed turkey.
- Dust the turkey loaf with additional pumpkin spice seasoning, then remove the dutch oven from the preheated oven and place the loaf, with the parchment paper, into the warm dutch oven.
- Lower oven temperature to 475°F. Cover the dutch oven, and place it on the lowest rack for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the cover and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the crust on the outside is hollow when tapped on.
- Remove the turkey bread from the oven, and let it cool completely before slicing into it for optimal texture.
- Serve with pumpkin butter or your toppings of choice, and enjoy!
- Appetizers, Breads/Crackers
- 2 Turkey Loaves
- Prep Time
- 48 hours
- Cook Time
- 35 minutes
- Total Time
- 2 days, 34 minutes, 59 seconds