Monday, June 01, 2009

BREAD: Project Sourdough Day 3~Cinnamon Loaves

I inhale deeply.  The house smells of cinnamon and bread.

Sourdough Cinnamon Loaves were today's use for the surplus flour/water/yeast mixture produced as I continue to reactivate my long-dormant Idaho sourdough starter.

This time I used the ingredients from a recipe for basic sweetbread dough, though in slightly different proportions.  I cut all of the additions by about half from the original recipe.  I don't like a cinnamon bread that's too sweet or too buttery because I can't eat as much of it at one sitting.

All this week I've got a schedule that looks like Swiss cheese.  I can't work on anything that requires focus for many hours at a stretch.  I can't get covered with dirt in my garden or clay in the pottery studio because I'd soon have to get cleaned up for some obligation where I have to be presentable.

Baking bread as a creative activity works well around such a schedule.  Hands on time comes in small increments of 15-20 minutes and rising time can be controlled somewhat by placing the dough in a comparatively warmer or cooler environment.

I know a busy mom from an Italian family who mixes up a ball of dough first thing in the morning each day, places it in the refrigerator to rise very slowly all day, takes it out when she gets home and makes it into pizzas, or plain Italian loaves, or bread sticks, or herbed rolls.  Quicker than a trip to the grocery store.

So here was the process for today.

After reserving a cup of starter for the next cycle, I added the following to the remainder with a whisk:

1 cup Milk
2 1/4 tsp Rapid Rise yeast
4 Tbs Melted Butter
1/2 c sugar
1 Egg

To this batter, I gradually mixed in approximately 5 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour.  I didn't realize that I'd have to add so much more flour than I had yesterday (only 3 1/2 cups) to compensate for the extra liquid from eggs and milk.

The first two cups of flour were mixed in by hand with a whisk, one cup at a time until no lumps remained, working air into the batter.  The next cup and a half was mixed in first with a wooden spoon, then kneading by hand in the bowl.  Transfered to a floured wooden board for kneading about 10 minutes, where addition flour was worked in.  The dough was very soft and sticky.

The ball of dough was placed in a large greased bowl, turning to coat, then allowed to rise until doubled.

I had a lot going on today, so I purposely left the dough to rise in a cool place to slow it down.  It went into the bowl at about 8:00  this morning and wasn't ready to punch down and form into loaves until about 2:00 this afternoon.  Even then it hadn't quite doubled.  In a warm (80-105F) place this would have taken probably 2 hours or less, instead of 6, though the low percentage of yeast to flour probably slowed things farther.

[If I'd really wanted to delay the rise, I could have put the bowl in the refrigerator, as I did when I had to go out on Sunday with the sandwich rolls formed and sitting on a baking sheet.  They went into the fridge covered with a damp dishcloth until I got home, then they were taken out to finish rising.]

At that point, I divided the dough into four equal portions, pressed each out by hand into 8x12 inch rectangles.  Laid two of these next to each other on the kneading board and sprinkled them generously with cinnamon-sugar mixture, then placed the other two on top of the first two, sprinkled again.   The two separate stacks were rolled up into 8 inch oval loaves and placed in 5x9 inch greased loaf pans.  Tops were sliced with a knife about 1/2 inch deep and more cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top.  

I warmed the oven slightly then turned it off and placed the pans inside for a quicker rise before baking.  After doubling (about 2 hours later while I taught lessons), I baked the cinnamon bread for about 25 minutes at 400F, covering the tops loosely with foil part way through to prevent over browning.

Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.  Probably should have greased the pans more thoroughly.  The sugar in the loaves caused the to stick in places.

INSIGHTS about the sourdough starter:
  • Tap water contains chlorine.
  • Chlorine kills micro-organisms (including bacteria, fungi, single celled organisms, etc).
  • Yeast is a kind of micro-organism (a fungi).
  • Sourdough starter is a symbiotic relationship between yeast and bacteria
  • Using tap water in my sourdough starter may kill off some of the yeast and bacteria, making it harder to activate.
SOLUTION: use filtered water or water that's been left out uncovered for several hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

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