Do Fear the Reaper - AKA More Cowbell
About a week ago, I made a bread with Carolina Reaper and Fatali peppers that was well received by my heat-loving friends at Roberto's Mexican restaurant in Sunnyvale. It felt like the theme could be explored little further, so I got another few peppers from the garden down the street. My intention was to make a very spicy chili lime sourdough bread with cilantro and a little bit of corn flour mixed in and using my brother's salty spice 'n seasoning mix in place of the salt. Although this turned out good and spicy, voices just kept asking for more cowbel...I mean "more peppers."
I cleaned out the seeds and chopped up four peppers into tiny pieces. If you haven't experienced these peppers, I can tell you that they are as serious as a pepper gets. Then I grated off the zest of four limes. The zest of a lemon eventually went in as well since it was just sitting there and came from the same garden as the peppers. My brother's seasoning mix looks roughly the same as Montreal steak seasoning and even contains some of that, but it also contains lots of other things. I usually describe it as a salty chili lime taste, so it made sense with this bread.
It was a pretty white dough with a couple of heaping tablespoons of corn flour. I'm starting to think even a little bit of corn flour very much changes the ability of the dough to hold air and spring in the oven. I dunno. Everything got a better/finer chop this time. The pepper oils started to permeate the dough with some handling. Even without touching or tasting them, it felt like the temperature had gone up to about 90F in my kitchen. It was therapeutic and maybe a little habit forming. We'll see.
The dough came together well and joined its buddy the nutella rye in the banneton lounge. Goldenrod, the bread knife, stood watch.
Lately I've been giving my breads a little bit of a bench rest and some stretch and folds before retarding them in a well-floured banneton overnight. The next day, I just take them out of the fridge when I wake up and they are proofed and ready to bake some time in the afternoon. Surely I'm missing out on the benefits of degassing or shaping after the overnight rest, but this way works for me. I can even let them rise some or even most of the way and then store them in the fridge overnight. The next day, just pull the banneton out of the fridge and you're ready to rock. Letting the dough come up to room temperature before baking is optional.
I've distorted my pics a little bit trying to reduce the size. The bread baked in a cast iron Dutch oven combo closed for 20 mins at 460/open for 20 mins at 350. I sprayed the bottom pan with a tiny bit of avocado oil and blessed it with a pinch of kosher salt; even included a pic of the salty bottom.
This time, I brought the bread to the restaurant still warm. It was Friday, and the free margaritas found their way into my belly along with a slice of the bread. It was very spicy but manageable. The heat would build as you ate more. I was sweating, and the bread seemed to keep my entire body warm throughout the night. My wife said it had a great balance and texture and was more than just a spicy stunt. The lime aroma/flavor came through just enough.
Again, this bread was well received. They are spice and heat addicts at Roberto's, so the feedback I got all followed the same theme: Make it hotter!! Two waiters and the hostess paid separate visits to deliver identical instructions. More peppers! More heat!! More cowbell!! For next time, i've been instructed to take a handful of the peppers and just run them through the blender, seeds and all, to make the bread insanely hot and maybe give it an orange color. So I have a plan for take number 3 of Lucifer's loaf. I'm always looking for a new bread idea, so it's good to have one in my back pocket.
Next time, I will probably try a much smaller sample. It was hard to sleep with a little supernova inside of me. They are waiting on a shipment of fancy bourbons at the restaurant, so it was strongly suggested that I bring in the next fiery boule when the new batch of beverages shows up.