I tried posting this one yesterday and tfl blew up on me when I pressed save. I got a black screen with lettering in white saying page not available. Will try this again.
I bake a loaf of pulla roughly each week and have used the same recipe and methodology for at least two years, perhaps three. Using a vigorous levain I found my braid strands blowing apart at inappropriate places, so I set out to remedy this. First I thought either the gluten is underdeveloped or perhaps I have been too aggressive with my stretch & folds and have torn the gluten strands. I made a couple of small changes. Fist I used more of a kneading process, say a knead & fold and I upped the hydration a couple of points: from 180 g of milk to 189 grams.
I have always divided the dough and pre-shaped into boules, then rolled out into tubes for braiding by hand. The flaws in my blown apart braid strands appear to have been caused by my roll out method. I googled "rolling out dough for braids," and found that some bakers use a rolling pin, then jelly roll up the strands. Here is where I made big changes in the way I roll out pulla dough. First I pre-shape into a tube instead of a ball -duoh!
I then use the rolling pin to roll out the dough into a long rectangle.
The dough rolled out to 1/4" or so is then rolled up. I brushed the tail end with a little water to get a tight seam.
I pinched and patted the seams down as tight as I could and gently rolled the dough into a uniform tubes. This is the second time I have used this technique and need to be careful I don't roll the braids out too long. First time I ended up with a 16" braid to bake on a 15" baking stone . . .
The longer, more uniform strands were easy to braid. this technique of rolling out is faster and easier than my traditional technique and actually resulted in a more open crumb and a better loaf! Here is the proofed braid, egg washed and sprinkled amply with sugar.
Who knew an old skibum could learn new tricks? Here is an updated recipe:
80 g liquid levain
alternately use 40 g each flour and H2O and 11/2 tsp instant yeast
189 g scalded milk
1/4 c sugar
2 Tbs raw sugar
8 cardamom pods,, hulled and ground
75 g egg, beaten, (2 eggs, use remains for egg glaze)
Let this mixture get happy and bubbly. I usually mix at the end of the day and leave in on the counter overnight.
120 g bread flour, mix well
50 g melted butter, beat in until the dough is smooth and glossy
120 g bread flour, mix in well and rest 10 minutes
I did 4 sets of knead & folds with 10 minutes rest, then a bulk rise of 2 hours. Divided, shaped, braided, coated with egg wash and sugar and baked 400F 14 minutes with steam and 12 minutes without steam. the result has been an improvement in both taste and texture. It is never too late to learn new tricks!
Happy baking! Ski