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Food and Film, an Oscar Celebration: Hamlet and English Crowned Sweet Bread

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The Oscar's, or Academy Awards, have become an international yearly tradition for film fans the world over. Millions of people look forward to the one day of the year when a gold plated little naked bald man takes over the media universe. Whether you love or hate the choices of the academy members, the fact-of-the-matter is, the Oscar's are a cause for celebration -- and what better way to celebrate than with food! This year we'll celebrate with some great food from the films which have taken home the Oscar for Best Picture.

Hamlet (Best Picture, 1948): If you ever want to totally submerge yourself into a world of tragedy, revenge and murder, you need look no further than William Shakespeare's Hamlet. There have been a few movies adapted from this classic work from Shakespeare, but none even come close to this stunning version starring and directed by Sir Laurence Olivier. Though this version of Hamlet does stray from the original story, from a cinematic point-of-view, it is nothing short of a tour-de-force of acting from the legendary Olivier and often called his greatest portrayal. Aside from winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Hamlet also won Oscar's for Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Art Direction and, Best Costume Design. Sir Laurence Olivier was also nominated for Best Director, but did not win.

When one deals with any of the works of William Shakespeare, one deals (in one-way-or-the-other) with the monarchy (good and/or bad). Though this version of Hamlet doesn't really showcase food, a dish that Shakespeare himself would have eaten and enjoyed would have been English Crowned Sweet Bread.

What this amazing delicacy is, is a delicious sweet bread which is crowned with an equally delicious chocolate crust. It is the best of two pastry worlds - you have a delicate sweet bread and a rich chocolate crust with a slight crunch.

There are many pastry shops throughout Europe which sell various renditions of this pastry but I think the English version is the best due to the slight crumb of the actual bread. This is one of those pastries that you can enjoy as a light dessert, enjoy with a "spot of tea" as part of a wonderful brunch or enjoy as a breakfast.

Ingredients for making English Crowned Sweet Bread (makes about 12):

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 6 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups flour

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the milk and yeast. Let the yeast proof (foam) about 10 minutes.
  2. Into the bowl whisk the butter, sugar, salt and eggs until well combined.
  3. Stir the flour into the bowl and once it has formed a dough, remove it to a floured surface and knead about 5 minutes (this is a sticky dough, so it can get messy).
  4. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover and let rise about 90 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball.
  6. Flatted each ball into a disk about 1/2-inch thick.
  7. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon sheets. Place the breads on the prepared sheets.
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and proceed to make the chocolate crowns.

Ingredients for making the Chocolate Crown:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white

Steps:

  1. Into a medium bowl stir together all the ingredients, except the egg white, to form a dough.
  2. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead a few minutes (it will be sticky).
  3. Divide the dough into 12 parts and roll out to a size where it will fit over the sweet breads (crowning them).
  4. Brush each of the sweet breads with the egg white and then place the "crown" atop the sweet breads and lightly pat down.
  5. Make a slash through the crowns with a knife.
  6. Place into the oven and bake 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack until ready to serve.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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