One day I was meandering unsuspectingly around the foodienet and suddenly I was ambushed by this bread on Jude's gorgeous site Apple Pie, Patis & Pate. I just HAD to try some. And since Jude was not around to make it for me, that left me to bake it.
The recipe was a giant step in complexity above any yeast recipe I'd yet attempted. Up until this point, all of my yeast experiments had been with direct rise recipes, but this one used an indirect method, relying on both a biga and a soaker. These are types of pre-ferments, which contribute to better flavor and structure of the finished bread. As far as I can understand it, during the resting stage of these predoughs enzymes break down the sugars within the grains, thus releasing the flavor.
- I made a little chart to figure out the times to make each component of the dough and when to make the final dough.
- Mixing the biga and the soaker went very smoothly. One went in the fridge, one on the counter.
- When it came time to make up the dough, the biga and the soaker are combined with additional ingredients, then kneaded, etc.
- Taking one ball of dough (cut into 12 pieces) and another ball of dough (also in 12 pieces) and adding only dry ingredients (I re-read the recipe umpteen times: no additional wet ingredients) did not produce a "shaggy dough." In fact I couldn't get it to come together at all. Not with a spoon, and pretty much not with my hands. I had to knead it in the bowl before I could even get it to the bench to knead it. Using a hindsight as I sit here a month after baking this bread, I'm pretty sure I should have added a bit of water as I was kneading the dough.
- As I kneaded the raisins would not stay in - they kept popping out.
- Back when I made this bread Jude's recipe had an error in the quantity of walnuts (he has since fixed it, thanks!) I finally ended up using 30 grams (1/4 cup). I didn't think I could incorporate any more nuts while also trying to corral the renegade raisins that jumped out at every turn. Literally.
- The bulk rise was really slow; it was supposed to be around 45 minutes, but at that point the dough had only risen from 3 to just under 4 cups. At 1 hr 45 min, it had risen a smidge more. My husband made a nice warm bath for the dough bowl:
- The dough did respond, and began to rise! Finally it was at 1.5 the original size.
- Then I turned it out onto the counter, formed a rectangle, added cinnamon sugar and shaped the loaf:
- For the proofing, we went back to more sloooow rising. The dough was supposed to reach 1.5 of the shaped size (and the recipe said around 45 minutes). After an agonizingly long amount of time (very late at night) the dough seemed to stall. It was risen a bit but not as much as it probably should have been. I gave up, called it "risen" and popped it in the oven.
- This bread smelled incredible - of yeast and cinnamon - as it baked. I checked the bread regularly. It was in the oven for longer than the recipe's time range, but it never did get above 190 on the thermometer I was using (the recipe specifies 195). At 1 hour and 18 minutes total I called it "done".
This was no refined wimpy raisin pastry! This is bread with some heft. It was very very dense, but it was quite nice toasted. And it really needed butter. The bread wasn't particularly sweet; the vein of intense cinnamon was a great counterpoint to the plain whole wheat/raisin crumb. You'd need to be a fan of the taste of hearty whole grain bread to have a positive view of this bread. I do so I did! Thanks, Jude, for introducing me to this recipe.
My very own copy of Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book arrived in yesterday's mail! I want to take my time reading it, because he has wonderful explanations, tips, and guidelines on every page. After a bit more practice I plan to bake this bread again. I already know that I will mix the dough earlier in the day so that I'm not waiting for a slow rise in the wee hours of the night!
[update: After reading the original recipe in the Whole Grain book, I realized a few things that would have helped my loaf: Adding a few tablespoons of honey when making the final dough, and kneading the dough with wet hands.]
I'm sending this to Susan at YeastSpotting, a wonderful roundup of all things bready. Head over there and check out all of the breads that folks have baked up this week.