All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lombardy Easter Loaf

Usually my wife makes this Easter bread, but this year she asked me if I wanted to make it. I didn't want to, but ended up doing it anyway, since I had more time this week than she does. I am not a huge fan of these sweetbreads.

The recipe my wife usually uses is the Lombardy Easter Loaf from Wolter and Teubner's 'Best of Baking'. This is a very well-used book in our home. We've had it for many years, and my wife often will make German style cakes from it. My wife has annotated this particular Easter Loaf recipe with several notes: "Very good. Bake 350 25 min" and "would make good donut dough" and "I prefer this bread to other pg - you could add raisins to this one too".

The recipe that she considers this one better than is another Easter bread, called "Polish Easter Rings", which calls for a full cup of raisins. So when talking over this recipe before I began, she said I could add more raisins "or currants, or dried cranberries, or slivered almonds, or whatever we have."

So on her advice, I changed some of the ingredients. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup (50 g) of finely chopped candied lemon peel; instead, I added the raisins, currants, dried cranberries and finely chopped candied ginger that we had on hand. I was going to go to the store for the candied peel, and also some unsalted butter, but because I didn't have to get the peel, I ended up using salted butter in the recipe. Here is the Mise en place photo (but of course, I forgot to have the butter ready in this photo). There is now 60 g of dried fruit.

This is a very wet dough, and I had to incorporate a lot of flour from the surface of the counter as I kneaded it. I would estimate I kneaded in an extra cup and a quarter. That's an awful lot, and I could have added more, but I held myself back.  The dough remained slack and moist when I set it out to rise.  It doesn't have to be firm, it sits in a pan to bake so it can be sloppy.

70 g sugar 1/4 c + 1 Tbsp
250 ml milk 1 c (at 110 degrees)
14 g yeast 2 pkg
500 g all purpose flour 3 1/3 cup
--- salt 1/2 tsp
2 eggs
1 egg yolk, beaten
generous pinch grated nutmeg
generous pinch ground allspice
zest from 1/2 lemon peel (grated peel)
120 g butter 1/2 c, melted
60 g dried fruit & nuts about 1/3 c
Mix 1 tsp of the sugar with the warm milk and let it stand 5 minutes until frothy. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs, sugar, spices, zest. Stir in yeast mixture. Pour wet material into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon.
Knead on a floured surface until "smooth and elastic".
Let rise 45 minutes. Knead again, briefly.

Divide into 4, form each piece into a small boule, and set each in the corner of a 9x9 pan. Proof 30 minutes, while pre-heating oven to 375 degrees.

Brush on egg yolk

and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Cool on a rack. 

I had changed the time and the temperature mostly on the say-so of my wife's experience. The bread uses a fair amount of yeast, and comes out of the oven well risen ("He is risen indeed") and with a nice cross shape from the loaves intersection, from which I suppose we are to derive the religious significance of this loaf.  The egg yolk gives the crust its familiar golden colour.

Unfortunately, the time and the temperature that my wife had written down was for our previous stove, which must have been a bit hotter.  She also made hers in a round pan, with smaller balls (but if you do that, you don't make a cross).  The original recipe called for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees.  I think that next time we make this, we'll return to that.

Because what I've got here is another bread disaster.  My first clue was an hour into it, when it seemed like the center of the cross had caved in.  My wife dug into it and announced, "It's not cooked.  You've got goo here."

Well, Happy Easter.  "He is risen: indeed?"  What a let down.

There is one redeeming virtue.  While glancing at this book, I realized that there are a quite a few breads in it that I think I'd like to try: the "Wheat Germ Loaf", a "Whole Wheat Bread", "Flowerpot Loaves", "Fresh Herb Bread", "Aniseed Marble Bread", "Strong Rye Bread", "Hearty Peasant Bread", "French Onion Loaves", "Spiced Flat Cakes", and even "Savory Bacon Baps" (which look intriguing, but of course I would make a vegetarian version of them). The pictures of these breads look great. I'll have to play with these for my future Everyday Breads.

Brenda's Easter Lombardy Loaf

Because my loaf was such a disaster, my wife decided to make it herself so she would have a nice bread for Easter.  She basically threw the ingredients together haphazardly while she was making breakfast (I don't think that she measured much of anything; I saw her 'ballpark' the butter), she let the dough rise while she was eating and reading the paper, and then kneaded it before jumping in the shower.  She shaped the bread soon after she got dressed, and then started to get interested in her other work.  She remembered to toss it in the oven some time later, and said she set the clock for 35 minutes.  After an unknown amount of time passed, she wandered into the kitchen to discover that the dinger was going off.  The bread had been baking for longer than 35 minutes -- who knows how long? The yolk on top of the bread turned dark brown, and has a shine to it like ceramic glaze.

Here is her Easter Lombardy loaf.  It looks fine, compared to mine.  She bakes with such disinterest, and it turns out great.

Even the inside of her Lombardy Easter Loaf was cooked. 

Notes to Myself:
  • To get a nice golden crust, brush on egg yolk and you won't need steam in the oven.
  • If you are wondering about your yeast, trial it in a sweet warm (110 degrees F.) hydrated solution for 5 minutes to see if it gets foamy.  Could you do this for wild yeast starter too?
  • Cook the dough, damn it!

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