If only I lived in the U.K., I could be celebrating Early May Bank Holiday. Rather, I would be celebrating because my bankers were too busy celebrating to slap me with another bank fee. When did it become fashionable to allow people to overdraw their account, then penalize them? Couldn’t the embarrassment be penalty enough when your card is rejected as you are trying to buy beef jerky and condoms at 7-11? I am going to return to a cash-only spending plan. When the wallet is empty, the account is empty. Also, I cannot stress enough that I have not had my card rejected when buying condoms and beef jerky at 7-11. If such a situation were to occur, I would use cash.
This weekend saw several bread conundrums. First was the sluggishness of super-enriched bread dough. I was making a rich sweet cardamom bread for a custom order I got last week. The dough remained cold and lifeless, and I thought for sure it was destined to make a bank shot right into the trash can. So I braided it, slipped it in the oven, and began reading last rites. Once in the oven, however, it came to life and lifted nicely. Then I realized that the yeast wasn’t dead, just in a sugar- and carb-induced slothfulness, like someone into hour five of the James Bond marathon on TNT, supine on the couch and surrounded with empty Ding Dong wrappers.
Conundrum two involved a switch from the Heavenly sandwich recipe. On the advice of my master baker, I used fresh yeast and went with a several-hour pre-ferment poolish rather than the git ‘er done method of rapid-rise yeast and warm oven proofing. Well, the active yeast was fantastic, plumping up the dough for both proofs, and springing the dough nicely in the oven. Bu the bread came out, well, like white bread: feather-light, pillowy, and snowy-white. This was not the golden and dense Heavenly bread I fell in love with. Gone was the overly-yeasty taste of the original, but it was replaced with what my wife called an acidity that bit on the sides of the tongue. I couldn’t taste that, but I still wasn’t pleased with the result. Perhaps I need to shorten the pre-ferment, or go back to active yeast, not fresh.
Conundrum three was the over-baking of a cardamom challah. Due to my complete lack of faith in the first cardamom bread, I decided to make a second. This one was the Peter Rheinhart challah, with more sugar and a lot of cardamom. While the first braided loaf took much longer than normal to bake, the challah sprinted to the finish and got a deep unhealthy tan, like the scorched cinders you see at the beach in August who are busy applying SPF 2 and bronzing tint to their espresso-brown leathery skin. Even worse, the bottom was slightly burned, probably because the egg/milk mixture on the top dripped down there. It may have also been the very long pre-heat on the baking stone, as this was the last loaf of the afternoon, and the oven had been on for about five hours. And I was not keeping a very close eye on it because I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There was slaying—I was distracted.
I did have one successful bread: cinnamon swirl. I had an order for cinnamon but couldn’t face making the James Beard uniform cinnamon recipe again. It’s good but kind of bland, and not what people expect when they order cinnamon. Since this order came from my wife’s boss, I wanted it to be good. It was actually quite easy and I was sore tempted to cut it open and try out the swirly goodness. But no. She took it to work today. Goodbye cinnamon swirl. I love you.
I did not take a picture of the dark-skinned challah, but here is the first cardamom braid and the cinnamon bread. This is a good example of butter-brushed (braid) vs. egg/milk brushed (cinnamon loaf).