p3: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

img_6469-version-2#21, Cinnamon “Raisin” Walnut Bread

I’ve had the house to myself for a while, need some loaf bread around, and it’s the holiday season so I’ve got to make something at least semi-suitable. Well truthfully I just wanted to make something simple, like a loaf bread, that I could turn into a project article and didn’t feel like doing any of my past recipes. And as I’m flipping through the book, I come across a recipe that I had completely forgot to take under my wing; I planned on making it at an early point but had yet to get around to it. Considering the time of year and need for something a bit simple, it seemed right to make a big loaf of Cinnamon Walnut Raisin Bread for the house; good on its own and interestingly versatile in the sandwich game. Not to mention I DID just recently receive a bag of organically small-farmed walnuts… had to crack the damn things myself, took two days, but they were worth it!

Thoug20151206_114957h of course I don’t actually HAVE any raisins… which is why we improvise, there being quite the simple solution here. It WAS a good way to use up all the leftover dried fruit I had from my yearly fruitcake making. With luck, my mixture of dates, figs, dried apples and walnuts, matched with this homemade recipe, can put the many horrible memories of childhood daycare cinnamon bread ‘snack times’ to proper shame.

 

20151206_115043Recipe
3½ cups/16oz Bread Flour
4 tsp/0.66oz Sugar
1¼ tsp/0.31oz Salt
2 tsp/0.22oz Dry Yeast
1¼ tsp/0.16oz Cinnamon
1 Large Egg
2 Tb/1oz Butter, room temp
½ cup/4oz Buttermilk or Whole Milk, room temp
¾ cup/6oz Water, room temp
1½ cups/9oz Raisins or other Dried Fruit [chopped if large]
1 cup/4oz Toasted, Chopped Walnuts

Directions

  1. Stir Flour, Sugar, Salt, Yeast, and Cinnamon in stand mixer bowl20151206_115658
  2. Add Egg, Butter, Buttermilk, and Water, mixing on low until everything comes together in a moist lump20151206_120803
  3. Switch to a dough hook and mix on medium, adding flour as needed if dough is too sticky, until it starts to get soft and pliable20151206_121036
  4. When it seems close to done, about 6-7 minutes-ish, add in Walnuts and your Dried Fruit of choice, mixing until everything is fully incorporate and fully kneaded, 1-2 minutes20151206_121852
  5. Transfer to oiled bowl, covering with cling wrap and bulk fermenting at room temp up to 2 hours, or until doubled in size20151206_141824
  6. Divide dough in 2 equal pieces or use it all for a bigger loaf, dimpling down to briefly degas before shaping into a loaf as directed Here. Place the shaped dough into a thoroughly oil-misted loaf pan, loosely covering with plastic20151206_142228
  7. Proof 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size and risen above the edge of the pan
  8. Heat oven to 350F, moving the loaf pans on a sheet tray for baking20151206_153341
  9. Cook for 20 minutes, rotate 180 degrees, and continue for a further 20-30 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when bottom is thumped
  10. Remove from oven and pans, placing bread on cooling rack for at least an hour before eating
  11. Slice and enjoy!

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What Have I Learned This Time?

I think I’ve noticed a trend in the fruit+nut-filled breads, mainly in the definite need for one to fold in as much mix-ins and other flavorings as possible. Truly they’re the main performers, for in all cases I’ve found so far the bread ON ITS OWN, if tried fruit-free, has felt very much on the plain/boring, if not even under-seasoned side. In the future, I believe I can improve this by increasing the salt additions for flavor, really felt like it needed it here alongside more cinnamon, but it’s just an interesting pattern of note. Though I’d bet a proper Panettone might be pretty darn good on its own… but there ARE always exceptions to every situation. But the main thing I took from it is that, in these recipes from here on out, I want to try to maximize the workable amount of mix-ins to as high as I possibly can without ruining the composition. If anything, it’ll just be awesome loading them up with goodies.

I’m not sure if this counts in this area, but after looking through pictures, it seems as if many a cinnamon-bread has a distinctive swirl going through it. That wasn’t achieved here, and I’m wondering if that is best done through rolling it even tighter, to create more ‘layering,’ or if I should just try dusting it with cinnamon before shaping a-la Caramel Rolls. Hopefully I’ll get to try.

Any Thoughts?

Not really… though I did REALLY enjoy the distinctly crisp texture on the outside. Not sure if it was natural with the bread or if I ended up over-kneading it, but I liked it! Money’s on the sugar addition helping it out though.

And yes, before those who’ve read these posts before [rare as you may be], I did end up forgetting to take a couple pics after it was baked.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It turned a bit ugly, but I think the fruit made sure the loaf bread is still sweet on me.

p2, Kouglof

kouglof_The Sweet

With Easter coming up (or having come up) and my family being asked to contribute a dessert, I got the chance to tackle one of my French sweet recipes, and I’ve had a few that I wanted to save for holiday parties of sorts. These are often those brioche-based or light cakey favorites normally saved for celebrations as-is. Now that I finally have a mixer with a dough hook, too, I can tackle these recipes with even more enthusiasm than before!

After some deciding, and a noted dismissal by the mother against the idea of a certain cake made with Pastis (anise-flavored liqueur), I settled on Kouglof… or, much like Flammekeuche, one of the other tens of European names which this dish goes by. Hailing mainly from Alsace, this bread-like dessert made in a special ceramic ring-mold features an inclusion of raisins, almonds, and booze (typical additions for bread-based desserts). And, much like quite a few dishes from this highly Germanic-influenced region, one can safely claim that France is NOT the country of origin for this. No, we see various other cakes going by the same name and same or similar recipe in various countries; It’s kuglof in Hungary, guguluf in Romania, babovka in Czech-Slovakia, babka in Poland, and wacker/wacka in Austria.

It’s this last country which most likely made the biggest introduction of the recipe to France, Marie-Antoinette having supposedly introduced the pastry to her friends in Versailles. After which it became one of the most fashionable cakes at the time. Though the popularity may not be as big now (at least in the US), it still proves why, when made right, it’s such a much-loved dish, the smell of warm toasty bread mixing with the sweet notes of kirschwasser and almonds.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It’s difficult for me to narrow down different bread-based recipes when I don’t have too much experience with the formula effects, not to mention no clue given in research towards how that particular brioche traditionally leaned. Luckily, though, I was able to find certain requirements that I just had to have in the final mix, so that helped eliminate possibilities.

F20150404_215933irst, obviously, there had to be Raisins; Golden, in my opinion, since the wine grapes that would be most abundant and likely dried in Alsace, Germany, and the other countries that make this dessert would most likely be White varieties (I could be wrong, maybe they use a different variety which is red, but if anything I found a really good looking bag of organic Californian goldens at Trader Joe’s). But more importantly, it had to have some Alcohol to soak these in.

Speaking of which, though many recipes call for Rum (likely as it’s the most handy for home cooks), Kirsch or Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) is most properly utilized, a classic spirit distilled near the regions. And French Brandy would pose a reasonable substitute. But do please get in some booze, it’s not a proper dessert without the use of good alcohol!

Finally, I had to have a recipe that used Almonds (surprisingly not all did), the higher quantity of this, raisins, and kirschwasser in the recipe the better, so as to properly display the additions and not just make a plain, simple brioche. I wanted to make sure these elements actually COUNTED with the flavor they brought in. Which is why, instead of following recipes which just sprinkle all of them on the bottom of the pan (to top the cake after baking), I moved all required inside, after having previously chopped and toasted them in the oven. Extra was utilized for ‘garnish’ of course; gotta try making it pretty.

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Besides required must-haves, there were also things I avoided; mainly, those recipes that made really small versions of the cake and/or glazed it with an icing of sorts. Though I bet they would get the idealistic cake-ish or high-butter brioche crumb that I was ideally looking for, it just didn’t feel like it embodied the kind of kouglof I wanted today. I want the big cake, unadorned but for the raisins and almonds already inside, sliced thick and only sweetened by any fruit or whipped cream one would top it with.

As for final recipe notes, I tried finding one that didn’t seem TOO bread-y (we’ll see how that worked out), but in particular I found interest with one yeast-starter strategy, where instead of simply leaving with warm milk/water, one made a little dough-ball to rest and rise for a bit before mixing the whole batch in. Not really sure what it did, but the idea seemed intriguing, so I just had to do it. It also had me cover the dough in flour as it rose/’proofed’… not sure what reason that is, besides maybe being a natural substitute for covering the bowl with plastic/a towel?

20150405_100220Oh, speaking of rising, creating the optimum slightly-warm and moist environment is ideal for any bread-type preparations. The best way to do this, if not privy to some ideal location in your own house, is to boil a pot of water and place in the oven along with the covered dough. So sayz Zool, all hail Zool! (da-na-nana-na-na)

Final note: no matter the country, this pastry has a traditional fluted, round pan in which it is baked in. I am TOO LAZY to go out and buy one of these for this one recipe that, as much as I want to, I will likely never make again. Luckily for us, bundt pans work just as well.

Kouglof
100g Golden Raisins
40ml Kirschwasser
20g Active Yeast
320ml Lukewarm Milk
550g AP Flour
2 Eggs
80g Sugar
1tsp Salt
130g Butter, Diced and softened
80g Chopped, Toasted Almonds
Whole, non-toasted Almonds for display
Butter

Directions

  1. Place Raisins and Kirschwasser in container together, let macerate overnight20150404_220058
  2. Combine the Yeast and 70g of Milk, mixing briefly, letting sit for 5-10 minutes to activate.20150405_094932
  3. When soft, lightly foamy, and smelling distinctly of the yeast, add to 100g of flour. Knead briefly into a ball20150405_100123
  4. Cover in some of the remaining flour. Set aside for ½ hour in an oven alongside pot of boiling water to briefly rise, about ½ hour20150405_105620
  5. Combine remaining Flour, Eggs, Sugar, Salt, Kirsch (drained from raisins), and the starter ball in mixing thoroughly by hand for about 10 minutes, or with a stand mixer dough hook 4-6, until the ball is fully incorporated (dough should start stretching a bit)20150405_110508
  6. Add Diced Butter, mixing on medium-high until incorporated (or hand-kneading about 10 minutes) and dough becomes smooth and elastic20150405_110830
  7. Toss in Raisins and Chopped almonds, kneading briefly to distribute as evenly as possible20150405_111035
  8. Cover bowl with clean towel, let rise in warm area of your choice for 30 minutes20150405_113617
  9. Butter the desired Kouglof or Bundt Pan mold thoroughly, placing a whole almond in the grooves for a decorative top20150405_113928
  10. Punch down, BRIEFLY knead again, and transfer dough into desired pan. Cover and let proof again for 30-60 minutes, until doubled in size20150405_114138
  11. Turn oven to 360F20150405_121902
  12. Move pan to oven, back 30-45 minutes, until top is crusty, brown, and a knife inserted comes out clean (Note: may want to cover top with aluminum foil partway through if browning too fast)20150405_124422
  13. Remove, let cool 2-4 minutes before upending over cooling rack, allowing it to sit 5-10 minutes before serving.20150405_131424
  14. Slice and enjoy as desired20150405_162700

20150405_155426My Thoughts

I think it came out exactly as it was supposed to (maybe a TOUCH over, there was a bit of a dryness to the crust, which came out exceptionally golden brown, beautiful, and crispy btw omg lol afk yjk… okay I’m gonna stop that now), but it didn’t fit my ideal goal; I clearly kneaded it too long for my preferences, as it really came out more brioche-y than sweet bread/cake-y like I was hoping to get. Not complaining completely though, this is one of the completely acceptable outcomes; it IS a brioche-style recipe.

On its own it’s a nice, rich little slightly eggy bread, as I said with an awesome crust, I love how it came out looking! The almonds and raisins added a nice touch; not fully transforming the flavor as if you were eating something stuffed with marzipan or almond extract, just a subtle little addition so it’s not plain bread. With the maceration, those raisins provide a happily little pop of flavor in the pieces of kouglof we find them in.

20150405_155538At the end of the day, though, this guy is just so much better eaten with other stuff. A big dollop of hand-whipped vanilla cream and some raisin-fig-strawberries soaked in balsamic, sirup, and other yummy stuff. Sweetens it up and adds some much needed moisture, for what’s the best use of sponge and breadcakes but to use them to soak up delicious fruit compote things. Not to mention the leftovers make for EPIC Bread Pudding the next day (which this one did as well, topped with chopped almonds and leftover soaked fruit).

kirschPossible Pairings

Obviously we can’t consider eating a slice of kouglof without a sipper of the same Kirschwasser we used to cook it with; it makes sense regionally, culturally, and deliciously. Gotta love that combination of deep fruit and almond-y tones from cherries with this lightly nutty and fruit-jeweled bread.

Though since we’re technically in Alsace, for the French purposes of this recipe at least, we should consider one of their delicious sweet wines… or at least what I’d say for any other dessert from there, I would love to consider a proper VDN (basically a special late-harvest, sometimes botyrized, awesome). But kouglof (this version anyway) really is barely sweet, so this isn’t an ideal pairing. Instead, I would so love to try one Alsace’s rare Moscatos. Fermented dry or, more realistically, a bit off-dry (the Alsace wine Region and Germany have shared much history, and have slowly started affecting each other’s styles; certain German vintners are starting to make drier, more robust bottles while the traditionally bone-dry Alsace is starting to incorporate more sweetness in some Grand Crus), with that distinctly floral, naturally sweet and raisiny/grapey flavors the wine exudes, perhaps with a bit of fleshiness from their long, full fermentation to go with those baked bready notes. Doesn’t that just sound like it’d be perfect with these flavors?

musc