Being a home baker, one of the most amazing things for me to achieve in my baking is consistency. As a home baker one gets rarely the opportunity to bake big batches, and the natural limits are oven capacity and proving space.
During the last four weeks I have been asked twice to bake for larger occasions, and I managed to churn out about 70 braided rolls on each occasion. Great fun, and also quite a learning curve in managing resources and dough handling.
The first occasion was my mother-in-law's 80th birthday; I used the Rich Sourdough Barches recipe from “Inside The Jewish Bakery”, a great recipe. I made 70 rolls (60g each) in different shapes and with different toppings, and a 12 strand braid of 1200g, in 6 batches over 2 days (working fulltime on my job during the day). After the first two batches the oven window blew (while my wife made supper, I was still on the train), and a commuter friend offered spontaneously his kitchen, which I gladly occupied until 1.30 am that night and got all my baking done.
Here a photo of the rolls made that night:
The arrangement on one of the tables looked like this:
The second occasion was the winter fair at my son's school. The theme was “Fire And Ice”, and I have been gently volunteered to create “Fire n'Iced Buns”.
A couple of days before Bo Friberg's “The Professional Pastry Chef” had arrived, and I was keen to try out some recipes from this huge book.
I chose to base the buns on the Rich Cardamom Sweet Dough – various tests and tastings showed this to be an easy to handle and very tasty formula.
Curiously, although it is a yeasted dough, it omits a bulk ferment – it is meant to be rested for just 10 minutes after kneading (to relax the gluten). I tested this, and made two more small batches, one proofed as I would (poking test), and one overnight in the fridge. The original method and the chilled version were quite similar, but the “properly“ fermented version yielded buns that were quite dry.
I will give the percentages of the Cardamom Dough as I adapted them below.
I made the final buns with Cardamom Dough, my Chocolate Chilli Dough (adapted from the Cardamom Dough), and peppermint Icing. Half the Chocolate dough was without chilli.
Because I managed to scale shape 12 buns in about 10 minutes I baked 65 buns (40g each) in 6 batches, starting at 5.30am and finishing with the decoration at 9.00am.
Here some photos of the "Fire n'Iced Buns":
The buns above have been glazed with hot apricot jam, but haven't been iced yet. Unfortunately I haven't got any good pictures of the final product.
And here the formula:
Chocolate Chilli Dough
Chocolate Chips (small)
Melt the butter and set it aside to cool a bit.
Mix milk, yeast, egg and sugar. Let it stand for about 15 minutes.
Add this mix to the solid ingredients and mix to incorporate.
Add the butter and knead until you have a smooth, soft dough that easily comes off the bowl or worktop.
The chocolate dough will be stiffer, but in the end both doughs will perform similarly.
Rest for 10 minutes to relax gluten, and then shape.
You can also put the dough into the fridge right away and use it later. (I kept it in the fridge overnight)
Excellent videos about shaping and braiding can be found on Youtube, e.g.
When asked where, or who, or what I would turn to when in need of comfort, I blurted out:
"I bake" All around the table there were people nodding in agreement. Comfort, food, baking. A no-brainer.
My answer caused a growing feeling of unease within myself though. As the rest of us came up with their ideas (books, photo albums from the attic, secret benches at water fronts) I counted the number of times a week I throw something into my oven, and started to get slightly worried. I must be in need of an awful lot of comfort...
Ever since, every time I bake, I ask myself; why am I baking?
Sometimes the answer has indeed something to do with comfort. A missed job that had my name written all over it will spark a very comforting autumnal frangipani.
Last week I found myself baking Dutch crust rolls after I shattered two (!) plates I really liked. At times, it is about a passion for new things and learning. Croissants, ensaimadas, macarons, complicated sourdough breads that take up to 36 hours to make, bring it on!
Most of the time the answer seems way more trivial. All the bread eaten in this house come from our own oven. I bake because there needs to be bread on the table in the morning. Simple as that, or is it...
Sharing as a disease The best part of baking, especially when baking bread, is eating it together. Sharing bread is right up there with the big boys when it comes to what is ingrained in our very genes from the start of humanity.
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the ground."
No sooner were we kicked out of paradise, or bread came into our existence... It is at the heart of what makes us human and has stayed with us till this very day!
I heard a wonderful story of a guy, here in Amsterdam, who has made it his mission to GIVE in life all that he can, without ever asking anything in return. He helps complete strangers to a new bike, finds lost photo albums and brings it back to the rightful owners, things like that.
One of the people, a radio journalist, who was touched by all this - he himself got a new bicycle after complaining on a radio show that it was stolen from him - dug around a little and found out the guy was operating... from a mental institution.
He was diagnosed mentally ill. His own words; "over here they consider sharing a disease".
The disease that is called sharing... Personally I hope it is airborne and viral, very contagious and practically incurable. This world could do with a bit of sharing.
This recipe for Swedish Kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) came to me by way of a baking friend. She got it from a new food channel, who got it from somewhere else, etc. Along the way tweaks were made in the recipe, and what you end up with are some really stunning, very tasty cinnamon rolls that are real easy to make. Maybe something for at the coffee table on Thanksgiving? For me, any old day will do to make them; they have become very popular quite fast in this household.
For the filling:
150 g almonds
150 g sugar
100 g unsalted butter
8 TS cinnamon
4 TBS water
For the dough
500 ml milk
150 g butter
12 g instant yeast
120 g sugar
13 gr. salt
1 TS cardamom
850 gr. bread flour
(pearl) sugar for decorating
Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and bread flour. Make sure the milk has cooled enough before adding the yeast. 35° C is okay. Mix on low speed until the dough is nice and stretchy, around 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling. Pulse the almonds together with the sugar and the cinnamon in a processor until fine. Add the water and the butter to it and mix until well incorporated.
Rest your dough in an oiled container until almost doubled in size. The warmer it is the quicker it goes. About one hour or so. Next, roll out the dough to a big rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Make sure it doesn't stick, it makes working this dough much easier.
Put the cinnamon paste on half of the dough and fold it onto itself. Roll out again to even it out and cut the dough into strips. Form the rolls by stretching and winding the strip of dough, loosely, around your hand twice, go over the width of the roll and tuck in the end. No matter how you do it, it will always look lovely, so don't get too over zealous in trying to get them to look all the same!
Let the rolls proof until they are nice and plump, about 45 minutes. In a warm kitchen they might be ready within 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 200° C. Take out all the racks and prepare to bake on the second lowest rack.
Give the rolls an egg wash with the slightly beaten egg (use only egg yolk for a deeper, richer shine and a more dramatic contrast) and sprinkle with small sugar pearls if you have them. Normal sugar works as well, but won't look as classy. Bake for about 20-25 minutes with convection until they turn a deep golden brown. Let them cool on a rack and.... SHARE!
It's been a pretty good week in Portland. After months of being out of work, I have two jobs, seem to be on track for a third and I'm pretty sure at least one of those will continue post-Christmas. I know it's just seasonal work, but I'm really feeling like this Portland experiment has just taken a decided turn for the better. To celebrate, I decided to do a sweet bread this week. Thumbing through the Point of Departure, the bread book I've been baking my way through, I came across a recipe for a Cardamom Braid. That fit the sweet bread criteria and seemed appropriate for the seasonal nature of the new job. My brother married a woman who is half Swedish and cardamom braid is mandatory at their Christmas morning celebrations. She won't open a present until the braid is sliced and ready to eat. It's always delicious so I decided to see how close this recipe would be to theirs. Turns out, it's not quite the same. Lydia's version is flatter and sweeter, probably uses a softer dough and more sugar. I also seem to remember a bright yellow color, possibly saffron, that this one doesn't have. And my crust was way browner, partly my fault from letting it bake a few minutes too long, but also inherent in the recipe. Hers is barely golden and very soft, definitely not the crispy crust I got. On the other hand, the taste of my loaf was excellent, slightly sweet with a spicy cardamom flavor. I also liked the moist, chewy texture. I'm thinking next time a lower oven temperature, a slightly softer dough and brushing with something other than milk might get me exactly what I want.
Cardamom Braid from The Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cook Book
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 to 2 cups all purpose flour (I substituted white whole wheat flour here with excellent results)
small amounts of milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling
In a large bowl combine one cup of all-purpose flour, the yeast and the cardamom. In a small saucepan heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt until warm, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg. Beat the mixture well for several minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. (I used almost all of the two cups but I think I will back that off slightly next time.) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead till smooth, about 5 or 6 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat and let rise, covered, until double, about an hour and a half.
When double, punch down and divide in thirds. Let rest while you prepare a pan. I use two nested jelly roll pans lined with parchment paper but you can grease if you prefer. Roll each third into a 16-inch rope and place about one inch apart on prepared pan. Braid loosely, pinching the ends together and tucking them under. Cover and let rise until double, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. (Next time, I'll try it at 325, I think.) Brush with milk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. (I plan to look for some decorative sugar for this step.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (I got distracted and let it go almost 30 which was too long.) Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
I'm looking forward to making this for Christmas morning with the great-nephews. I think it will be a hit. Any of you Scandahoovians out there want to give me tips for making this perfect?
Rene, I am glad you liked the pulla! I love it a lot too! I know there is a large population of Finns living up in your area and you might be able to get fresher cardamom seeds in Michigan! In NH, we have cardamom seeds at my health store, but cardamom loses flavor really fast, and I am always wondering how long it has sat at the store and lost some flavor! Not that many people buy cardamom in that form! I bring mine from Finland anyway, so I don't have that problem, thankfully! Take care, Julie J
And to the Red Fox!
Thanks for the article about the lent buns! I saved the recipe! My husband has made them too and they are good too! He said he just takes whipped cream and chopped almonds and cuts cardamom buns in half (pulla) and takes out some dough to leave room for the whipped cream and almonds! He said you can use strawberry jam too, for a different taste! The Finns use pulla as a base for a lot of different recipes! I know my husband pats out little tarts with the pulla dough and fills them with cooked fresh blueberries! This is good too! Take care and thanks for the post! Julie J
A while back, Julie J was asking for advice on how best to crush cardamom for her Finnish cardamom buns. As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to try it! And finally, this week, I got the chance.
I'm not sure if this is how the buns are supposed to look. I pretty much guessed about how much of an indentation to make for the butter. And as I was inserting butter into the thumb holes, I completely forgot about sprinkling extra sugar on top as per Julie's instructions. But I did think of using some inferior apricot jam on two of the buns. It turns out that this is a great way to use and improve apricot jam! I decided to make a 3-strand braided loaf as well. And then when I was placing the buns on the tray and worried that they were too close together, I shaped 4 of the rounds into snakes and braided them together into a smallish 4-strand round loaf.
Did I take my advice to use the coffee grinder to crush the cardamom? Ha! That would have been too easy. I used the mortar and pestle. Remind me to use our big sharp knife next time. The mortar and pestle is way too labour intensive and leaves rather large chunks of cardamom behind. Or perhaps I will follow my own Fresh Loaf advice to use our coffee spice grinder. Luckily, large chunks of cardamom taste good and are soft enough that we aren’t risking getting broken teeth... and the crumb is beautifully soft and moist. Absolutely delicious with or without extra butter! (The extra butter is really unnecessary! But oh so good!)