Monday, January 4, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Bread

One of the things I greatly miss about Fort Worth (besides the people and the weather and Spanish-speaking patients) is Central Market. Grocery shopping was always more fun when Central Market was involved. Whole Foods just isn't the same. One of the best parts about Central Market was the artisan bakery. And this was a TRUE artisan bakery, not just another grocery store bakery pretending to be fancy. Year-round they made the best focaccia I've ever had in my life (but that's another entry, I'm sure). They had seasonal selections in addition to daily baked goods and my favorite was the chocolate cherry bread only made between mid-November and February. Whole Foods makes a chocolate cherry pistachio bread and, while I love pistachios, I don't want my chocolate/cherry combo messed with! So I took matters into my own hands (no pun intended).

What follows is, naturally, a product of boredom and my craving for said bread. (And it gives me something to do while the bread is rising.) The recipe is from Vegetarian Times (no, I'm not vegetarian; it's just the best recipe I found). The "12 Stages" are common knowledge to professional bread bakers, but I first heard of them in my bread-baking class at CM (taught by Gwin Grimes of Ft. Worth's Artisan Baking Company-- amazing!) and now I'm copying them from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Chocolate Cherry Breakfast Bread

Ingredients: 1 package active dry yeast (0.25 oz)

1 cup warm (not hot) water

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. sugar

2 1/3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I used organic white all-purpose)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (I used Shatto, a locally-made brand)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate)

1 cup dried, pitted cherries


-Dissolve yeast and 1 Tbs. sugar in 1 cup of warm water. Let sit until the yeast foams on top

-Sift remaining sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt in large mixing bowl. Add water/yeast combo and stir with wooden spoon until smooth dough forms.

-Fold in butter

-Transfer dough to well-floured work surface, and knead 7 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands

-Pat dough into 10-inch square. Place chocolate pieces and cherries in center of square, then fold in sides like an envelope. Press edges to seal. Gently knead dough 10 to 12 times, or until chocolate and cherries are evenly distributed throughout. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover with clean dishtowel, and let rise 1 1/2 hours in warm place or until dough doubles in size.

-Punch down dough. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight, if desired (I was too impatient for this), or place on well-floured work surface. Divide dough into 16 equal rounds. Roll each round into a tight ball, and place on baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with remaining dough. Set baking sheet in warm place, and let rolls rise 30 to 45 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 375F. Bake rolls 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops appear dry and centers spring back when touched. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Now for my illustrated (humor me, please) version of these directions, using the 12 Stages of Bread:

1) Mise en Place ("everything in its place")

This step is self-explanatory, but it's amazing the difference it makes. Having everything out reduces the risk of forgetting an ingredient (which I know we've all done) or realizing you don't have one of the ingredients/enough of an ingredient halfway through (which I know I've done). This also has the added benefit of making you feel like a professional chef on a cooking show since you're now using little bowls of pre-measured ingredients!

2) Mixing (aka kneading)

Apparently, there's more here than meets the eye. There are actually 3 goals of mixing: ingredient distribution, gluten development (keep kneading... it's impossible to overmix this type of bread and gluten development is vital to bread structure and flavor), and initiating fermentation.

3) Primary Fermentation (First Rise)

In general vocabulary fermentation is bad. Indeed, this is the process by which most food spoils. However, it's necessary to ferment grain in order to leaven it. This process also releases sugars trapped in the complex starch molecules. Some of this released sugar becomes yeast food, but most of it becomes available to the taste buds and to the caramelization of the crust. Reinhart says that primary fermentation "is the most important stage in the creation of great bread."

4) Punching Down (Degassing)

There are four reasons for degassing dough:
a. It expels some carbon dioxide; too much carbon dioxide will eventually choke off the yeast
b. It allows the gluten to relax a bit
c. The temperature on the outside of the dough is usually cooler then the interior, so punching it down helps equalize the interior and exterior temps.
d. Finally, when the dough is degassed it allows for redistribution of the nutriends and triggers a new feeding cycle (which we will utilize in Stage 9 when the dough rises a second time).

5) Dividing

Here, we divide the dough into the final number of loaves/rolls, etc. or some intermediate number to be divided later. I know a dough scraper and food scale (birthday present ideas!) will aid in this step, since the goal is to try to cut the dough cleanly (don't rip) and with as few cuts as possible. Each time dough is cut, weak spots are created. These affect the final loaf if you have to combine two of more pieces to achieve the desired weight.

6) Rounding

The dough is now given a preliminary shape, usually in a ball. This stretches the gluten again and helps form surface tension around the skin of the dough. This will help the dough retain its shape during the final rise.

7) Benching

Resting the dough is not always necessary, but it's very helpful with any dough that resists shaping (meaning the dough is too elastic). Benching is complete (or not needed) when you can poke the dough with a finger, and the indention does not spring back.

8) Shaping and Panning

Since I'm making round rolls (boules), I'll share Reinhart's technique here. It's much more involved than rolling the dough into a sphere.

a. Gather the dough to form a rough ball.
b. To create surface tension, stretch the outside of the dough into an oblong shape, being careful not to squeeze out any more gas bubbles than necessary.
c. Repeat this stretching motion, bringing the opposite ends together to make a ball. Tighten the surface tension by pinching to seal the bottom of the dough where the creases converge.
This is hard to picture unless you've seen it done. Imagine you're rolling the edges of the dough in on itself to create an upside down bowl. Then pinch the outer edges of this "bowl" together as if you're trying to trap an air bubble inside Silly Putty before popping it.

9) Proofing (Secondary Fermentation)

From the moment the dough is divided, the secondary fermentation cycle begins. The ninth stage is the climax of this secondary fermentation, where the dough has its final chance to rise in preparation for the oven. The most important function of this stage is to bring the dough to the right size for baking-- usually 80%-90% of the desired finished size. This stage is usually shorter than the first rise because if our final shape doubles in size during this proofing, it may collapse when it encounters the "oven spring" that usually occurs.

10) Baking

Here, the starches gelatinize, the sugars caramelize, and the proteins coagulate. These are the final critical control points in determining the quality of the finished bread.

Many loaves require scoring to release some of the trapped gas. This promotes a proper oven spring and prevents the trapped gas from making tunnels or caverns in the bread, or even worse, splitting the bread along a different, non-aesthetic fault line (you've seen this when you bake a loaf of bread in a bread pan and the top seems to spring up so much that it creates a seam all the way around, essentially separating the fluffy top from the denser bottom of the loaf.)

11) Cooling (Patience is a Virtue)

While a loaf is still above 160 degrees F, they are technically still gelatinizing. The trapped steam needs to either evaporate off through the crust or re-form as moisture and be absorbed by the crumb of the bread. If the process is interrupted by cutting the bread while it is still hot, the loaf will seem soggy.

12) Storing and Eating (!)

Bread apparently tastes best when it has cooled down completely, to at least 80 degrees in the center (this can take up to 2 hours depending on the size of the loaf).

Storage "Don'ts":
-Don't store bread in the refrigerator. It will dry out.
-Don't store crusty breads in blastic bags or plastic wrap.
-Don't store soft, enriched breads in paper bags unless you intend to dry them out for bread crumbs or croutons.
Don't store warm bread in plastic bags or plastic wrap. This will prevent condensation which accelerates mold development.

Final Verdict:
The rolls didn't rise as much as I'd hoped while baking. One reason is probably that I neglected to divide them into their final rolls between benching and proofing! Instead, I messed with them and divided them after the final proof which probably de-gassed them again. Oops. Also, even though I only proofed them for 45 minutes, I used a much more effective method than I did for the first rise. Namely, I placed the dough pan on the bottom rack in the (turned off) oven and put two small pots of almost-boiling water on the top rack. This created a pseudo "proof box" with enough heat and steam to cause the bread to rise effectively. So they did, in fact, double on the second proof even though they're not supposed to. I'm thinking these two things prevented them from expanding again in the oven.

They sure did taste good, though! Even Ross approves. While the rolls are good for portion control, I think I'll make it into three loaves next time (a nice, crispy crust on a loaf studded with cherries and chocolate is more Central Market-esque).

If you read all the way to the end, bravo! You're either extremely patient, of a wannabe food nerd like me! Let me know if you try making the bread yourselves and how it turns out.

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