Pane Yaksik - Brown Sugar, Soy Sauce & Honey
This is my first bake for 2016 and it is my most outrageous bake to date!
Yaksik (藥食/약식) is a traditional Korean sweet dish made by steaming glutinous rice, honey, nuts and dried fruits. Yak (藥) in Korean means medicine and Sik (食) means food so yaksik literally means medicinal food. Honey has been regarded for a long time as medicinal and from my research it is the reason why yaksik was called yaksik. Yaksik is usually seasoned with honey, brown sugar, and soy sauce further augmented by cinnamon and sesame oil; those flavors are the main inspiration of this bread. I don't have the "standard" yaksik mix of jujubes, pine nuts and chestnuts but I have golden raisins so that's what I used here as I think any dried fruit will do; the only important thing is there are some.
This is the glorious Yaksik seasoning sauce made with dark brown sugar, soy sauce, honey, cinnamon, sesame oil and cinnamon. It's very fragrant and enticing but don't try to taste it in its pure state as it is so intense that it might make you throw up like what almost happened to me!
This is the finished dough with the raisins already incorporated. I use strong flour because of all that gluten weakening sugars and used more yeast because I don't have osmotolerant yeast which is preferable for high sugar doughs. This is still the old me, baking without measuring. I planned a bulk rise at room temperature for an hour before it goes to the fridge but when I checked it, it hasn't grown so I let it go for another hour and when I checked again there is hardly any growth! Oh no! Various thoughts ran through my mind; Have I killed the yeast with the cinnamon and soy sauce? Is the amount of yeast I added too little and all of the sugars are slowing to the point that it's dead? I remember that the night is much colder than the nights I made bread before, I asked Siri about the temperature and she said it's 24°C. 24°C is considered (very) cold where I live so maybe it's the reason why the dough is slow to rise so instead of putting it in the fridge I left in outside near my bed for the bulk fermentation.
I was greeted by this beauty this (notice the difference in the light?) morning! She's alive! All those sugar, soy sauce and cinnamon did no harm to her!
This is my gift to myself for this year's baking, a pullman pan! For us with no ovens this is our best friend! For bread to be cooked evenly without an oven, I found out over the years that conduction is the best heat transfer method for even browning and cooking, convection and radiation are just to uneven and I always end up with an almost burnt bottom and a pale top. With a pullman pan, there is something that will support the structure of loaf and regulate intense temperatures while cooking and you can turn the bread so all sides get a chance to face the heat source from the bottom. The result is an evenly browned and cooked loaf; still, more work and not as even as an oven does but a million times better that what I achieved before. I baked this in a frying pan over a wood fire because the pullman pan is too large for my clay pot.
The dough rose nicely in the pan indicating good gluten development, I compensated for the high amount of sugar by a lot of kneading and strong flour. I followed txfarmer's advice of letting the dough proof just 80% of the pullman pan for a perfect height with round corners of the finished loaf. Being high in sugar, the bread stuck on the lid of the pullman pan when it finished cooking despite a good amount of oil so the top crust was ripped but it's still pretty for us. Likewise the bottom crust stuck to the parchment paper and I have no choice but to peel it off. It is enough to be thankful that bread was not burnt since it's very easy to burn it. Those marks at the top are from the cooling rack.
It has a very interesting flavor, very different from the pure seasoning sauce. Coming out from the pan the aroma of peanut butter wafted in the air with hints of chocolate and cinnamon. The bread was not very sweet but has a strong flavor of molasses and a touch of honey. There is a slight saltiness with a savory note for you to know it's something different but not enough to reveal there's soy sauce in it. The juicy raisins complemented the other flavors well especially the cinnamon flavor that comes through last in the flavor profile, not that strong cinnamon flavor that you will think it's "cinnamon raisin bread" but just enough for a sense of familiarity and fragrance in this entirely unconventional treat. Definitely not a flavor for everyday snacking for me but nice to have to shake up the palate once in while!
The crust is very thin, soft and delicate. The crumb is very soft that it's very difficult to slice, it's easier to pull a chunk off the loaf or pull shreds to eat. It's like eating an intensely flavored cloud.
The color is not as intense as a real yaksik because the ratio of the seasoning sauce to the grain is lower but it's still there. For the record, I still haven't made or even tasted an authentic yaksik made with glutinous rice. I think a more robust whole wheat will stand up and complement more all the intense flavors of this bread. I will use more honey and less or even completely leave brown sugar out next time because honey should be the star sweetener as it was the reason why yaksik was called yaksik. Finally I will try to complete the traditional add-ins pine nuts, chestnuts and jujubes next time.
I wish you could try it! It goes very well with tea! Wait! Why is there always tea in the photos? Well, it's a preview for my next post that's still in theory. I hope you enjoyed this post, until next time!
Thank you very much!