For the most recent holidays, my housemate’s (Cyn), mother gave me a copy of Alfred Lunt’s Ten Chimney’s Cookbook. In there, of course, was the one recipe I couldn’t wait to try, his famous Cardamom Bread. As you can see from the formula, this a bread with over 100% hydration, and the first time I made it I had to add more the twice the amount of flour called for. This put an onerous burden not only on my mixer, but my poor shoulders as I tried to beat more flour into the goopiest bread batter I’d ever encountered.
In the meantime, I was turned on to the “no knead” method of bread making by the bloggers at the Fresh Loaf. Here’s how out of touch I’ve been, I didn’t even realize that there’s been a whole no knead revolution going on under my very nose. My problems as a baker have always been linked to my inability to accurately measure if I’ve kneaded the dough enough or too much, the ultra-hydration and folding method has been a welcome relief.
Not all recipes can be converted to this method. And certainly Peter Reinhart’s pate fermentee French bread can suffer in the transition. But that formula does produce a tastier crust than the daily bread I’ve been making with the poolish starters. I just tested that out in the last couple of days. I think I might add a teaspoon of brown sugar to the daily bread recipe and see if that makes a difference in the flavor of the crust.
Realizing today that I still have enough cardamom here for more of Lunt’s loaf, I decided to give it a go again. It is an addictively delicious bread and very popular around this house. Instead of trying to bully three or more extra cups of flour into the mix, I thought I might experiment with the folding method.
I added about three and a half cups of AP flour to the original batter, and still had a soupy gloppy batter. I set it aside in my big bread bowl and waited for 20 minutes, just as I do with the daily bread recipe.
I did about eight folds on the first 20 minutes.
On the second, I did only three. My two major concerns in coming at this formula in this way is that the bread will lose its lovely tender crumb and that it won’t be sticky enough when it comes time for the shaping. A slight stickiness to this dough is absolutely required to make a nice braid and have all the cinnamon sugar adhere properly before baking.
After that, I put it back in the bowl to let it rise until doubled.
We’re all ready to degas and start braiding. Here’s where things can get tricky. I had meant to make this as two loaves and completely forgot my plan during the course of the making. When you separate the dough into three equal-ish parts, be very careful and allow the dough to rest a lot as you form those three parts into three long ropes. Any weak areas in your dough will make the braid weak as well.
The formula calls for “braiding in cinnamon sugar,” I like to start that process earlier by shaping my ropes in cinnamon sugar.
Most of the time you should start your braid in the middle like this, it ensures that your braided loaf will have a fairly even shape — on the ends and fat in the middle.
I use a lot of cinnamon sugar the whole time I’m braiding, I want that sweetness in all of the nooks and crannies I can possibly fill. Your golden mean for a good cinnamon sugar blend is one quarter cup granulated sugar to four teaspoons of cinnamon.
It looks so tidy and harmless, doesn’t it? You’d never imagine that it’s going to turn into…
This makes one very large loaf of bread. You can see now why I meant to make it two. I think I’ll go even further next time and make it as cloverleaf rolls.