Muesli Rolls or Don't Give Up!
A while ago I admitted neglecting some of my baking books, never giving them a second look, while shamelessly favoring others. To atone for my neglect, I pledged to give every book a fair chance with my "Equal Opportunity Baking" list, with one recipe from ALL of my baking books.
After a smooth start - three breads that turned out really well - I got bogged down with recipes that somehow didn't work quite right the first time I made them. It always took me a while before I felt like tackling them anew. The Muesli Rolls was one of them.
Published in 1997, I use "Brot und Kleingebäck" mainly as resource, adapting the old, labor intensive, same day methods to more modern techniques, like stretch-and-fold (S&F) that require less brawn and hands-on work, thanks to longer fermentation and refrigerator sleepovers.
I started the evening before, kneading the dough, then let it slowly rise overnight in the fridge. The next morning I baked my rolls. When they came out of the oven, they looked - and smelled - very appetizing. I couldn't wait to take my first bite, but..... what a disappointment! I found that "the proof was in the Muesli Rolls". They tasted good, yes, but were much too dry!
I was baffled. The dough had been well hydrated the night before, even a little sticky, as it should be with S&F doughs. If I hadn't really liked the taste of the rolls, I would have written off the recipe with a scribbled comment: "not that great!" So I took on the recipe again to find out what had caused this lack of moisture.
Was it the different fat content of German "saure Sahne" and American sour cream (10% vs 12-16%?) Not likely: more fat will make the crumb softer, not drier. American molasses instead of German sugar beet syrup? Nope!
But there was one ingredient that had puzzled me from the beginning - the "hearty muesli mix" ("kernige Müslimischung"). There are many muesli mixes on the market, and they differ quite a bit from one brand to the other.
I looked at the list of ingredients on the package. Bob's Red Mill's "Old Country Style Muesli" had rolled oats, wheat, rye, triticale and barley flakes, dates, raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seed and walnuts.
Peter Reinhart's S&F method (from ABED) doesn't require any pre-doughs (except for sourdough breads, of course). The understanding is that whole grains and seeds have enough time to soak when they spend the night in the fridge. But I find that pre-soaking coarser grinds doesn't hurt. And whole flax seed I always soak for 24 hours - to make them better digestible.
Even though my dough seemed well hydrated after the last S&F, those whole grain flakes and dried fruits obviously had swallowed every drop of water overnight.
The original recipe even mentions overnight refrigeration as a do-ahead option, but without the muesli mixture. That should be kneaded into the dough in the morning, before baking. But with just 10 minutes rising time for the shaped rolls, the flakes and dried fruits really don't have time to absorb much liquid - and the original recipe requires (besides sour cream) only 5-6 tablespoons water!
I do like chewing on nuts, but on hard chunks of dried fruit? No, thanks!
In a comment, the recipe suggests using a mixture of rolled oats, chopped raisins and hazelnuts, instead of store bought muesli. And that's exactly what I did when I made the rolls again - to have better control over the hydration. I hoped these tweaks would work, and I wasn't disappointed. The second batch of Muesli Rolls turned out just as nice as they looked!