These adorable bird rolls are a fun way to work a serving of whole grains into your Easter brunch.
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.
Bird-shaped whole wheat rolls recipe
- 3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 3 1/4 cups hard red whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar (or dehydrated cane juice)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (or coconut oil)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 whole almonds
- 20 peppercorns
- Heat the oven on warm or about 170 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl (or a bowl of a stand mixer), add the yeast and flour, and stir together.
- Add the water, sugar, melted butter, salt, and only one egg. Mix well, and knead (or beat with a dough hook) for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the ball of dough, and lightly oil the bowl. Replace the ball of dough, and cover the bowl with a damp towel.
- Place the bowl in the warm oven, and turn the oven off. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
- Remove the bowl from the oven, and turn the oven on to 400 degrees F.
- Pinch off a piece of dough, about the size of a large egg. Pull and stretch the dough from the top to the underside until you have a smooth oval. Place the oval ball of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Pinch off another piece of dough, about the size of a large cherry tomato. Pull and stretch again until you have a smooth ball.
- Place the small ball on top of one end of the oval, and then pinch the other end of the oval into a point.
- Use a toothpick to poke a slot in the front and center of the round ball of dough. Chop the tip off an almond, and insert the pointy tip into that slot.
- Poke two more holes on either side of the almond, and insert peppercorns for eyes.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Use a pair of scissors to snip at an angle into the sides of each bird to make wings.
- Whisk your second egg with a little water to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash onto the backs and heads of your birds.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Check your birds after about 8 minutes. If a head has fallen off, insert a toothpick into the body, and reattach the head on the toothpick.