I don't know which I like better: that these little birdies are so easy to make or that they're so cute, kids don't even notice they're eating whole grains. While this is a lovely sweet roll recipe made with the goodness of whole wheat, it's the shape that really makes it something special.
If you've never made your own bread before, don't be intimidated. This is a great dough to work with.
Notice how the dough has doubled in size in its bowl between the first and second picture? That's your indicator that it is ready for shaping. Just make sure you're using instant dry yeast. There is a whole different process for other varieties of yeast.
To shape your birds, start with a piece of dough about the size of a large egg or Roma tomato. Start pulling and stretching the top of the dough toward the underside.
Soon the top and sides should be a nice rounded oval shape.
Repeat this stretching with a small circle of dough, about the size of a large cherry tomato. Place the circle on top of one end of the oval. Pinch the opposite end into a point for the bird's tail.
Use a toothpick to poke a slot into the front and center of the circle, and insert the pointy tip of an almond. Now you have a beak.
Poke two holes on either side, and use the toothpick to press peppercorn eyes into those holes.
Take a pair of clean, dry scissors, and cut at an angle into both sides of the bird to make wings. Brush some egg wash on the birds to help them get a nice color during baking.
I find that each time I make these rolls, half my birds tend to have their heads fall off during baking. Check on them after 6 to 8 minutes. If a head has fallen off, insert a toothpick into the body, and stick the head onto the toothpick.
As you can see in the photos, the dark spot from the top of the head or the cheeks touching the pan actually looks quite cute. Just make sure to warn your guests to remove the toothpicks before eating. They might want to be careful with the peppercorns as well.
These rolls will keep for 3 to 4 days, but I like them best warm from the oven. You can always reheat them in a 300-degree F oven for a couple of minutes before serving.
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