The sourdough has been a dogged companion on the trip to Santa Fe. It was almost forgotten in the dorm fridge at St. John’s College. Kudos to KP for reminding me to grab it (what a tragic end to my bread blog that would have been!) It seemed a little startled to emerge from its jar at high altitude in Colorado…when I added it to this dough, it seemed to be gasping and panting for breath. I purchased extra expensive Hungarian High Altitude Flour at the grocery store to give it a little help—although, I’m not sure it made much difference. It was a 12% gluten flour, (normal bread flour being anywhere from 10-13). So, I liken the superfluous gesture to giving a unit of normal blood to a person with hemoglobin already in normal limits. My sourdough didn’t turn out to be anemic after all the travel, so. The transfusion didn’t hurt, didn’t help.
Adapted from Baking With Julia
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or, one cup sourdough starter)
¼ cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (from 7 to 12 pods, depending on the size)
1 teaspoon salt (I like using fine sea salt)
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
4 ½ to 5 cups (22.5 oz. to 25 oz. by weight) all purpose flour
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg + 1 tablespoon milk, for glaze
Place a small saucepot over medium heat and add the 1 cup milk. Scald the milk, so small bubbles are just visible around the edge. Remove the pot from the heat and cool the milk to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit. While the milk is scalding heat the 1 stick (4 oz.) butter in another small saucepot (or in the microwave) until just melted.
In a large bowl, add ¼ cup warm water (around 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and whisk in the 1 tablespoon active dry yeast. Set the yeast/water mixture aside for at least 5 minutes. It will become creamy.
Once the water/yeast mixture is creamy (or if you are just using sourdough), whisk in the 1 cup scalded and slightly cooled milk, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and the 2 beaten eggs. Whisk until fully combined. (I do not travel with cardamom, and Lauren didn’t have any on hand, so I decided to use 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead—tasted AWESOME).
Now, using a wooden spoon, add 2 cups (10 oz.) all purpose flour to the bowl. Beat the mixture until smooth. Vigorously stir in the 1 stick (4 oz.) melted butter. Once the butter is incorporated, add in the additional flour, a ½ cup at a time, until the dough is fairly stiff. Stop adding flour before the dough becomes dry. Once you have your dough mixed, but not dry, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes.
Shape your dough into a ball and lightly grease a large bowl. Turn the ball of dough in the bowl to lightly coat in the grease. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until it is double in size. This will take at least 45 minutes, but could take over an hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out of the bowl onto a cool (to cold) lightly oiled surface.
Knead the dough briefly to release the air. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each of the three pieces into a log about 36 inches in length.
Carefully move this braid to the parchment lined baking sheet, forming it into a circle onto the sheet. Cut an inch or two of dough off each end and fuse the circle together, into a crown or wreathe shape.
Alternatively, you can make a long braided loaf (or 2 braided shorter loaves). Loosely cover your bread with a towel and let rest and rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the egg glaze all over the shaped dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with sliced almonds and pearl sugar. Bake the loaf for 20 to 25 minutes. The top will be just golden, and the bottom of the loaf will be very light. Be careful not to over bake the bread. Transfer the baked loaf to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before cutting into the bread.
This bread was chewy, and slightly sweet. A nice cross between a brioche and challah bread. The pumpkin pie spice tasted kind of like cardamom, at least enough to distinguish it from plain challah. The most important thing was that Ethan liked it. But then, he likes all foods that his parents put in front of him, especially those just out of reach.
For the rest of the week we are staying at Lauren’s parents’ cabin in Winter Park, Colorado. Such a treat to have a quiet getaway after the rush of my graduation writing residency. When asked by my dad what I wanted to do now that I have some free time, I said, without hesitation: Write! I want to write my book proposal.