Wife Jan is interviewing job applicants over the next two weeks. The university will only cater groups of 10 and there will only be five for breakfast during the interviews. Jan asked me to cater the sessions—deviled eggs, a baked good, and fruit salad.
For the first interview I used some old standards—curried deviled eggs and biscuits. While the candidates would change each session, the interviewers remained the same. I tried to make a different flavor of deviled egg and a different baked good for each meeting. I have been making quick breads, today, I decided to go with a raised currant bread.
During the process of rising. yeast reproduces and digests some of the carbohydrates (starch) and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. During a warm rise the yeast—or other bacteria that may be present in the dough—may also produce other compounds—such as lactic acid—lactic acid is what puts the sour into sauerkraut. A cold rise does not prevent the yeast from doing its carbohydrate-sugar-gas-and-alcohol thing, but it inhibits the formation of lactic acid and other “off-tasting” flavors. A long fermentation also gives the amylase enzymes time to produce the flavor enhancing compounds that we think of as “good” bread smells.
Note: I had planned to have watermelon as my fruit, but it had gone bad, so I used what I had on hand and made my daughter Miriam’s favorite as a child—lime apples. The person who did not like spices was not going to be there, so I went with my most popular curried deviled eggs.
Karl’s Cinnamon-Swirl Currant Bread
4+ cups AP flour, separate uses
¼ cup potato starch
1 Tbs. Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
¼ cup warm water
1¼ cups lukewarm milk (I use lactose free)
10 Tbs. butter, separate uses
¾ cup Zante currants
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1. Sift three cups of flour with the potato starch, sugar and salt into a medium bowl.
Tip: I sift the flour 5-6 time to get a good blending of the ingredients.
Note: The potato starch reduces the amount of gluten that is formed. While you want gluten to give your bread structure, you do not want a tough, chewy bread for breakfast.
2. Put the yeast and a pinch of sugar in a small cup and add ¼ cup of warm water.
Tip: You do not want your water too warm, if it is too hot it will kill the yeast—think tepid.
3. Stir the yeast into the water and let it sit for five minutes.
Tip: This is called proofing the yeast and gives it a head start before you add it to the flour. The sugar jump starts the yeast growth by giving it something to eat.
Note: Be very careful with the water temperature. After five minutes the surface of the of the yeast cup should be fairly foamy. If the water was too hot it will have killed the yeast and you will have to start over.
4. Put the milk in a large measuring cup and microwave it for 1-2 minutes.
Tip: This is called scalding the milk. Heating the milk deactivates the whey protein that restricts gluten formation.
5. Put 7 tablespoons of butter into the warm milk.
Tip: The heat of the milk will melt the butter and the butter will cool off the milk enough that the eggs do not cook when you add them to the mix.
6. Scramble the egg into the milk mixture.
Tip: To reduce the mess, you may scramble the eggs in a separate bowl and then add it to the milk.
Note: If you feel that the milk mixture is still too warm—that it might start cooking the eggs after your add them—you may “temper the eggs,” by adding some of the warm milk to the eggs as you scramble them.
7. Make a well in the flour and add the contents of the yeast cup.
Tip: Use a splash of the buttered milk/egg mixture to rinse out all of the yeast from the cup into the flour.
8. Stir the milk mixture into the flour until it forms a ragged dough—rough with some dry flour showing.
9. Turn the dough out onto a flat clean surface and knead it until it is smooth and slightly tacky, about 4-5 minutes.
Tip: Work the remaining half cup of flour into the dough until it “feels” right. A board scrapper is a useful tool to keep the dough from sticking to the board at the beginning of the kneading process.
Note: The potato starch reduces the risk of over-kneading the dough, but do not knead so much that you produce a very dense roll.
10. Form the dough into a tight ball and return it to the bowl.
11. Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set it in a warm place.
Tip: If it is Winter, you may start the oven for a few minutes to warm it up. However, do not make the oven too warm or it will start baking the dough.
Note: Yeast likes to grow in a slightly warm, damp environment.
12. Let the dough ball rise until it has doubled in size, about one hour.
13. While the dough is rising, melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
Tip: You want these ingredients well blended.
Note: You will eventually be spreading this paste onto the dough. By the time you do this, you want the butter to be cool enough that you have a think, spreadable paste, not a thin slurry. If your cinnamon sugar is too thin, the dough will press it out as you try to roll up your dough.
14. Press the dough to deflate it, and transfer it the work surface.
15. Divide the dough into 2-4 equal pieces.
Tip: Use the board scraper to divide the dough.
Note: If you are using a standard loaf pan divide the dough in half. I am using mini-loaf pans to make four small loaves.
16. Take each piece of dough and push the point of the wedge into the dough, form the dough into a round smooth ball.
Note: Have a cup with about a tablespoon of milk or cream and a brush ready to hand to use to seal your rolls.
17. Taking one ball at a time, roll the dough into a long strip, the width of you pan.
Tip: For a full sized loaf, roll the dough to 16-17 inches. For mini-loaves roll it out to 12-13 inches. You can make them even longer if you want more “swirls.”
Note: As you roll your dough it will want to form an oval. You want your strip to be as rectangular as possible. Pat in the sides and pull out at the corners to square off the corners.
18. Spread the cinnamon sugar over the dough, leaving 2 inches bare on the far edge.
Tip: The short edge away from you.
19. Starting with the short edge closest to you, roll up the dough strip until only the last few inches are showing.
Note: the end will probably have pulled back into an oval. Gently pull out the corners to make it stretch all the way across the dough roll.
20. Brush the bare edge with milk and lift it over your roll.
Tip: So that the open seam is on top of the roll.
21. Pinch along the seam to seal your roll.
22. Turn the roll over— tuck the open ends under slightly—and place the roll-seam side down into the loaf pan.
Tip: Depending on your tray you may need to grease the pan or use parchment paper.
23. Brush the top of the loaf with cream and cover the pan with plastic wrap.
Tip: For the mini-loaves I found a rubber band useful in keeping the plastic in place.
24. Repeat the process of making the rolls for the other dough ball(s).
25. Put the loaves in the refrigerator.
Tip: Cold raise the loaves for at least 12 hours. Several days is better. You may also make four loaves and bake one each day for a quick special breakfast.
Note: This is a technique that I learned from making New York Style pizza crust. You can cold rise dough for up to five days.
26. Set the loaves in a warm spot and allow them to rise for about 20 minutes.
Tip: Preheat your oven to 375° F.
Note: I have tried raising the rolls for as much as an hour, but the final results were too fluffy and insubstantial or worse collapsed in on themselves. Twenty minutes produces a roll with enough lift, but which still has some bite to it.
27. Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the baking period.
Tip: Do not under-bake the loaves. Few things are worse than biting into the gummy underdone center of a loaf of bread.
Note: According to King Arthur, bake “…until they’re golden brown on top and the edges of the center bun spring back lightly when you touch it. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the center bun should register at least 190° F.”
28. Remove the loaves from the pans and set them on a cooling rack for a few minutes.
29. Slice and serve warm with butter on the side.