The Fresh Loaf

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Masala swirl loaf

Kistida's picture

Masala swirl loaf

It's the 21st day of 2022, I hope everyone is doing great and keeping up with each resolution-.. I made one this year: I need to drink less coffee this year! I decided to revisit my old habits like making masala tea from scratch. Normally, we would use Assam, Ceylon or even Darjeeling but I've English breakfast for now. The very first loaf of sourdough I made this year only happened the day before yesterday, also thanks to masala tea.

Let's lay blame on the goodies consumed between 24 Dec to 1 Jan for the lack of baking since 2022 began. This little break gave me time to reset (and lose some weight ha!), and shorten a list of Chinese New Year to-do's (this is happening in less than 2 weeks *gulp*)

The starter (Prune) came out from her chilly hibernation and was fed 1:2:2 and then 1:4:4 just before preparing the dough. The proofing time seemed longer than expected but the loaf turned out okay, no discernible sourness, soft crumb with bits of caramelized crust, despite a flaw in the shaping.

Right after baking, with brushed on butter

Masala swirl loaf

100g masala tea* or milk
20g flour

All of the Tangzhong
60 - 70g soured milk
25g honey or sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
160g starter (100% hydration, 10 hours at 21°C)
70g all purpose flour
60g atta whole wheat flour
6g salt
50g unsalted butter,

50g dark brown sugar
1 tbsp (approx 7.5g) masala spice
10g malted milk powder (optional, I used it for a creamy feel)
2 tsp all purpose flour

Egg wash
1 egg
2 tsp milk
A pinch of salt

Masala spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves or allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Soured milk: Add 1 tsp lemon juice to 1/3 cup milk. Cover and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.  

Flour mixture: Whisk together the flours, salt and yeast in the mixing bowl.

Egg mixture: In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk together egg, honey and vanilla extract.

Prepare Tangzhong and wet ingredients. Remove Tangzhong from heat and stir in soured milk followed by the egg mixture - Tangzhong is ready once the mixture gelatinizes at about 65°C; so when it is mixed with cool or room temp soured milk (60g) followed by the egg mixture, the temperature too low to denature the egg mixture (egg white coagulates at 62 - 65°C) or even the starter, yet warm enough for the dough.

Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture, followed by starter discard. Mix on low until a dough forms, it’ll be sticky at this stage (if it's not, try adding the rest of the soured milk). Cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Next, add a tablespoon of butter and mix on low until the butter is absorbed. Flip the dough and add the next tablespoon of butter and repeat mixing until all the butter has been added and absorbed. Increase mixer’s speed to medium low (speed 2 on the KA Artisan) and knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes - stopping every 3 minutes to scrape the sides of the bowl and turning/flipping the dough for even kneading (I believe this step is not required if using a spiral hook). After 15 minutes, the dough should be very smooth, no longer sticky and passes the windowpane test. After mixing, at room temp 22°C, the dough temp was 24.5°C

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased counter. Stretch and fold the dough on all sides and form a boule. Transfer the dough to a grease container or bowl, cover and let it rise for the remaining bulk ferment, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 23-24°C.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix egg wash and set aside.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured counter. Gently deflate and stretch or roll the dough to a rectangle about 15” in width and 10” in length.

Brush egg wash over 1/3 of the width in the middle and sprinkle 1/3 of the filling on top of the egg wash. Fold the dough starting from the 1/3 on the left to the middle. Egg wash the folded dough and sprinkle with 1/3 of the filling. Then, fold the dough from the right to the middle.

The folded and filled dough should be about 5” in width and 10” in length now. Gently, roll the dough to about 6” wide and 15-16” in length.

Bottom half, braiding or twists: Sprinkle the bottom half of the dough with flour. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut about 6 to 10 strips. Braid or twist each strip to any desired design. Pinch the ends of the braids and brush a bit of egg wash in them.

Top half of the dough: Brush egg wash on the top half of the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of filling, leaving about 1” at the edge clear.

Start rolling the dough from the edge without any filling toward the braided/twisted strips. Do not roll too tightly after reaching the mid section leading to the braids. Let the rolled dough rest on the ends of the braids for 2-3 minutes to seal it. Transfer the dough to a buttered 9” x 5” loaf pan. For 9x4x4 loaf, this recipe will yield a taller loaf.

Cover and let the dough proof once again until the top of it reaches at least 1.5” above the rim of the pan. At 23-24°C, this took 3.75 to 4 hours.

45 minutes into the final proof, preheat the oven to 160 / 180°C, glass or metal pans.

When the dough is ready, gently brush the top with egg wash.

Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes at 160°C or 45 to 50 minutes at 180°C, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 30 minutes. Bake until crust is golden brown and the internal loaf temperature registers at least 93°C/200°F.

Remove the loaf from the oven, brush the top with butter and let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Then, remove the loaf and brush butter all over the sides (optional). Let it cool completely in the cooling down oven, about 2-3 hours or overnight.

Sliced the loaf the next morning. The gap between the braids could've been prevented if I had just made a single braid or braided at an angle.

These were the last 4 slices!

*Masala tea1
Makes 1 large mug or 2 cups

240g (about 1 cup) water2
2 black tea bags or 1 tbsp heaped loose leaves
300g (about 1 1/4 cup) milk or 1:1 milk and 10% cream/evaporated milk
6 green cardamom pods or 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 whole cloves or 3/4 tsp ground cloves
3” cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Optional: 1 bay leaf
Optional: sugar, jaggery, maple syrup or honey, to taste

If using, store-bought masala teabags, just skip the spice prep and prepare with water onward.

Crush cardamom pods and cloves with a knife (or mortar & pestle). Break or unravel cinnamon bark into 2 or 3 pieces lengthwise.

Place all the spices, black tea and water in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil (100°C) , then remove from heat, cover and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes, up to 3 hours (or more for deeper, more intense flavors).

Remove bay leaf (if using). Stir in milk and heat the tea to a simmering temperature of about 85 to 93°C over medium heat. Then, reduce to low heat and let it simmer with stirring for 5 to 10 minutes - this prevents a skin from forming over the simmering milky tea. Remove from heat and stir in desired sweetener, if using.

Pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer into mugs. To aid cooling down and to froth the tea a little bit, pull the tea in two mugs (eg. stainless steel travel mugs or pitchers). Pulling about 3 to 5 times cools the tea to a suitable drinkable temperature.

There are many, many different masala tea recipes out there. Being able to adjust the spice content makes it easier for me to enjoy this tea. Personally, I find certain store-bought versions a lil bit too strong and not great when they're using spice oils in them. Adjust spice content and add other spices like black peppercorns, fennel, nutmeg, star anise, fresh ginger to your taste. :)

These are some of the small-batch bakes around Christmas-New Year:

Swiss meringue kisses with a few iced gems using left over pasta frolla dough
Pseudo chocolate truffles - coconut cookies coated in tempered dark chocolate and drizzled in white chocolate
Crostata with mixed berry jam made in pasta frolla crust and topped with Swiss meringue to hide uneven edges (sneaky!)
Baked yogurt oatmeal - a little bit of healthy eats in the morning to start our binge-eating last days of 2021.
Rich fruit cake with citrus peels, dates, raisins, walnuts, overdose of Frangelico - this cake was overly rich and drenched, the first single slice made me dizzy and red. I will have to revisit this with a shorter feeding period and skip the dates..
Tourtière - one of hubby's favorite. I've made this a few times with tweaks here and there. But I need to make it again with some other type of filling, probably with Malay-Indian influence.

Alright, until next moon, have a happy, happy weekend :)

- Christi

1: masala chai = masala tea. It's wrong to say, "Masala chai tea" or "chai tea"
2: water for tea, coffee - hard water makes bad tea/coffee.


Benito's picture

You should give lessons on braiding dough Christi, you come up with new ideas each time.  I love the idea of adding flavour in the tangzhong, I’ll have to borrow that at some point.  Each baked time you do always looks picture perfect, so beautiful and delicious.


Kistida's picture

I'm fascinated by knots and braids (and a lot of geeky things), usually preferring flattened versions to make them like a lattice over a loaf. Will post some easy steps when I'm done with Chinese New Year. Happy holldays and Gong Xi Fa Cai, Benny! :)

- Christi

Benito's picture

Gong Xi Fa Cai to you too Christi.


JonJ's picture

Christi, I've been thinking about the taste of a masala loaf for some days now. Must confess to being lazy and never thought to make my own masala for chai. I was imagining more of a cinnamon taste in the blend for this one but have yet to bake it, making a note to do so this year.

Beautiful braiding! Is that a style of braiding to leave the centre as you did, or is that your own design?

Finally also been thinking of the truffles and it reminded me that my mother used to make something similar with leftover fruit cake or cake and brandy.

Thanks as usual for the inspiration!


Kistida's picture

And I couldn't seal the braids to the main part of the loaf with egg wash because, the braids might break during the bake. And I didn't think about it expanding during the final proof or the bake either. These are normal 4-strand braids that are found in challah, I just wanted to see a textured top to the loaf :)

I like to keep the same amount of cardamon or more than cinnamon at times, It's fun to be able to play around with the spices for masala tea.

Your mom's smart to make use of leftover cake! I want to make matcha ones when I get the truffle bug again.

- Christi

happycat's picture

Beautiful and a unique look I've never seen.

Re flavoured tangzhongs.... I've been thinking about this over the last week... basically putting altus (ie. failed rye bread broken into pieces) into a tangzhong to flavour new loaves.

Kistida's picture

I use leftover rye bread in croutons, pies and meatballs. It has this lovely savoury taste which I like. :)

- Christi

Kistida's picture

Tested this version of sandwich bread 2 days' ago, this time using a 6-strand braid at the end of the rolled out dough. The swirls are cocoa and matcha powder added to 200g dough each.

From the night before and sliced the next morning

The first time I made a loaf with such hues was last month. I'm calling these loaves "the Moldy series" since I'm pretty sure I'll use similar mix of colors again.

Looks like swirls of mold, yes? :p

happycat's picture

That's really cool. Do you taste the matcha and cocoa?

Lovely designs like that would be good for "mindfulness" practice... appreciating the designs instead of wolfing down a sandwich.