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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread: My Disaster

This was a huge disappointment.

After working all weekend, I stayed up late Sunday to put together the Soaker and the Biga.  The Biga would be refrigerated overnight, and the Soaker would get my raisins nice and plump by sitting out at room temperature just a little over 12 hours.  I started mixing and baking mid-morning on my first day off.  And I had high hopes for this loaf: I was hoping it would be special, so I could make one and take it to work and share it with my co-workers.  But it was not to be.

Soaker: Is this a good idea? Raisins and milk at room temperature overnight?

Biga: at least we are refrigerating the mixture with the egg overnight

Final Dough:

Mixing it up, there was the usual magic when the squalchy pre-ferments came together between my fingers in the final dough.  There was barely enough hydration to get the ingredients to mix together in the container: I found it easier to pour the last few bits onto the counter to get all the ingredients hydrated, and mixed.  No, I did not count this as kneading time.  I followed the recipe times.  I timed everything.  The dough, when it finally came together as described, was indeed "soft and tacky but not sticky".  Okay, sometimes it was a bit sticky and a couple of times I had to reach for the water to keep the dough off my hands.  But that is fairly normal procedure for making these loaves, and in fact, during the mixing it is supposed to be sticky, and you are supposed to wet your hands.  I did all that.

I was surprised that according to the recipe I was to add the walnuts just prior to the kneading, since I thought it might interfere with the development of the gluten, but I dutifully followed the directions.  How is the gluten going to form with these big chunks of other matter  (raisins, walnuts) in the way? I thought.

The times Reinhart gives for raising the dough just didn't work for me.  I had my dough covered in my Excalibur Dehydrator (he says to leave it at room temperature, but the weather has been cool and damp, so I opted for a more controlled environment of about 85 degrees F), but after 45 minutes, there was no rise; after 60 minutes, there was no rise, and at 90 minutes there was no rise.  At that point, I decided to just continue on.

After 90 min: not enough rise

Cinnamon Sugar: Gee, that's a lot of sugar!

The dough that I rolled up and placed in the tin felt no different than the dough I had kneaded. 

Turned out on the counter.  He warns us not to rip it.  Rip it?  This is a blob.  You can't rip a blob.
Dough is flattened to 8x8x1/2" and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mix
Again, I had the thought, 'that's a lot of sugar!'

Rolled up, the raisins and walnuts SEEM like they have achieved a randomly even distribution.

Once again I placed the dough, covered in the Excalibur to rise, and once again, after 45 minutes, after 60 minutes, after 90 minutes, there was no appreciable rise.  Maybe a slight expansion of the dough.  Certainly not anywhere near the description that Reinhart gives, of the dough 'cresting' above the tin. 

After 2 hours: not enough rise

At the 2 hour point, I just decided to bake it anyway, and preheated the oven.

There was no oven spring.  The loaf smelled nice when baking.

Once it came out of the oven, it toppled out nicely when I gently upended the tin.

Then, disaster: turning it rightside up again to sit on the rack, the loaf cracked in half, and all the steam escaped.  Two days of work, utterly ruined.

 I stuck the parts together and let it cool, but the loaf really was unsalvageable.

The worst part: it just tastes like sugar.  I hate this loaf.  Why is this the worst part?  Because I have to make this recipe again, because this was a total failure, and this loaf is just not special.  The raisins taste like sick, the walnuts impart nothing.  I am disgusted with myself when I eat it.

Sure, I am a terrible baker, no question.  But more: I have to think that this might just be a bad recipe.

Notes to Myself
  • What went wrong?  Maybe your yeast is too old.  Try proofing the yeast before using it.  Although I am afraid that this will throw off Reinhart's hydration techniques.  His doughs seem to have just enough and no more, and any more will just turn the dough to soup.
  • What went wrong?  Maybe you need to forget about the times he suggests and just WAIT until you see the rise he suggests.  What if it takes MORE than double the amount of time he gives?  So what?  Let it take 3x or 4x the amount of time.  Or more.  I kind of questioned those times anyway, since there was so much raisin and walnut in the loaf.
  • What went wrong?  You should have baked it longer.  Reinhart gives the times as 20 minutes, then turn, then 25-40 minutes longer.  Bake it 40 minutes after the turn.
  • What went wrong?  Is it possible that during the kneading all the walnuts and raisins, rather than arrange themselves throughout the dough with even distribution, somehow all ended up in the middle, making the loaf highly unstable if you pick it up at both ends?  I suppose that left to arrange themselves randomly, this might have happened, but I didn't see that happening.  I don't think that the distribution was entirely random, since I was doing the kneading, and I wouldn't have let the heavy matter settle in one area.
  • What went wrong?  Did I manhandle the dough, when turning it back over?  No.  The dough is just very tender -- all of these Reinhart breads are! -- and in the moments after baking, it is obviously at its most vulnerable.  I really was gentle with this newly baked loaf.  It just totally broke open without much help from me. 
  • Sigh.  Make it again.  Try making it with half the sugar, half the raisins.  Try using dark raisins, not golden raisins.  Try adding the walnuts later, maybe even when you are applying the sugar. Try proofing the yeast with whatever hydration there is prior to using it.  Let the dough rise to description and forget about the times he gives.  Bake it for 20 minutes, turn it, and then bake another 40 minutes.  And don't take it from the tin until it is cooled next time.  I'm just saying.

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