A friend of mine started a sourdough starter recently, which inspired me to do the same. Then she gave me some of hers, and I kept the two going separately for awhile. Since I refuse to throw something good away (like some starter recipes suggest), I was making lots of bread for awhile! Mainly I was experimenting with varieties of sourdough no-knead bread. Whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel – some in the bread machine some in my cast iron dutch oven, some on my pizza stone. I still had extra starter, so I made pancakes with some too.
I had decided I was going to try some cinnamon raisin sourdough, and I had probably found a recipe for it, but two things delayed the experiment. First, I went to feed my friend’s starter one day, and it had a nice fluffy blackish-grey mold on top. I don’t know if this was because I had used whole wheat & other “good” flours in this one, as compared to the el-cheapo white bread flour I use in mine, or if it was something else. Nothing bad ever happened to the ones she has at home, so go know. Secondly, Passover arrived. Not being observant enough to clear every grain of chametz out of my house (I can’t even get all the shoes out of the hall at one time in this place!), I put a tight lid on my jar (usually kept on the fridge covered with muslin & a rubber band), and hid it waaaay back in the back of my fridge. Well, I tell you, I was amazed at how much I forgot already in a week!
So after my 1st fiasco, I googled sourdough cinnamon raisin bread and picked the 1st recipe I found that didn’t also have yeast in it. Nicole said she had come up with this recipe by blending and altering two others she had found, so I felt that she was giving me license to do the same with hers. Here’s her recipe:
Sourdough Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
– 1 cup active sourdough starter
– 1/2 cup raisins
– 3/4 cup lukewarm/cool water
– 2 cups bread flour
– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 tablespoons melted Earth Balance (or other butter-like substance)
– 1 tablespoon cinnamon
– 2 tablespoons brown sugar
– 2 tablespoons cane sugar
– ½ teaspoon nutmeg
– ¼ teaspoon cardamon (optional)
– fine-ground cornmeal for anti-stick purposes
Take your cup of active sourdough starter (once it’s all bubbly) and mix it with the raisins. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Add in the water and bread flour, kneading the flour in a bit at a time until just combined. Lightly oil a bowl and let dough rise in there for about 4 hours covered with a damp washcloth. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead in the baking soda and earth Balance. Add up to 1/2 cup more bread flour if needed. Roll out into a rectangular shape about 14-16 inches long by 8 inches wide. Combine the cinnamon through cardamon in a small bowl and sprinkle all over the rolled out dough leaving about 1/2 inch around the edges. You can look at the pictures here. Roll up the dough long ways (the way that would allow you to roll the most) to get the spiral effect in the picture. Once neatly rolled, pinch together the ends and seal it off so it’s like a nice little package. You can wet the edges if that helps.
Line a mixing bowl with parchment paper, squish the dough more into a ball shape and plop it in the lined bowl to rise overnight. Like before, cover with a damp wash towel and let rise for at least 8 hours. It should increase in size by at least 1/3rd.
Preheat your oven (and baking stone if you have one) to 450F. Once pre-heated, take your stone out of the oven and sprinkle it (or your metal making tray) generously with fine-grouned cornmeal to keep the bread from sticking. Uncover the risen bread, lift it out with the parchment paper and then plop upside-down onto the tray/stone. Peel away the parchment paper. With a sharp knife, cut 1 large or 3 smaller slits in the dough about 1/2 inch deep. Put the bread in the oven. Fill a small metal baking tray halfway with water and put this in the rack below the bread to provide steam. Immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Let bake for 35 minutes and then carefully remove the bread. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating. Yum!
So, 1st of all, I doubled the recipe – 1) large household, 2) trying to save myself some work – thought maybe I could freeze the second loaf for another day (HA!)
But…I didn’t have 2 cups of starter (I’m still adjusting to not having two), so I just used one. I had read here that you can get more of a sourdough flavor by using less starter but letting it rise for longer, so I thought it would might work to my advantage. I’m not sure it did because I don’t know that I’d call mine “light & fluffy” like Nicole called hers.
Then I cheated & didn’t soak the raisins for that long (it was late – I really wanted to go to bed!).
Next, well…Bobby Flay had just been on TV doing one of those “throwdowns” with a cupcake baker. She said she used oil instead of butter because butter makes the cakes dry. Bobby used butter – then complained that his were dry. I had never heard this before – always thought of butter as a moistener, but that sounded like some pretty decent evidence, so I started cruising my kitchen for the appropriate oil & settled on coconut oil. I used that instead of her Earth Balance.
Remember I mentioned it was late? Yeah, well, that 4 hour rise thing wasn’t going to cut it. That sounded like a plan for someone starting this in the morning, not at midnight, which tends to be my M.O. So, I decided to reverse the proofs. I mixed the dough (OK, I was struggling to mix the double batch, and someone seems to have lost the paddle to my bread machine (aargh!) so I threw it in the food processor with the dough blade. I wasn’t happy with what that did to the raisins, so I don’t plan to do that again), put in a plastic covered bowl in my oven & went to bed (hooray!) Then after more than 12 hours, I added the coconut oil & baking soda and rolled 1/2 of the dough out on parchment paper. I made the topping (which took way longer than expected, since I had to pop the cardamom seeds out of their pods & grind them in my coffee grinder), spread it & rolled. The first loaf I made a tube, tucked the ends under & placed in a glass loaf pan for the 2nd rise. For the 2nd loaf, I followed Nicole’s instructions & let it rise in a plastic bag. I left them for about 2 1/2 hours & decided that was long enough. I cooked both next to each other on my pizza stone, but my pan of water was dry when I took them out and my loaves were darker than I might have wished, but well, let’s just say that there’s about 1/2 a loaf left! I think I might use the rest for French Toast for breakfast.
So, what have I learned?
- I think next time I’ll use more cinnamon. It is an extremely healthy food/medicine (great for blood sugar & heart health), and even though I used the pungent Vietnamese kind, it still wasn’t that obvious in the final product.
- I noticed that there was no salt in here and I felt like it was lacking, so I think I’ll add a teaspoon or two next time (one of the original recipes called for 1/2 tsp).
- I’ll use a deeper baking pan with more water underneath.
- I was worried that the loaf shape would be too dense, but I actually think the boule was moreso. The loaf sliced better, had a softer crust, and of course fit in the toaster better!
Other thoughts are that mine might have been less fluffy because it was wetter, so I might use more flour next time, and I will try with the suggested amount of starter to see if it makes a difference. Probably soon, as my husband came in with a piece in his hand asking, “When are you going to make more of this?” Oh yeah, and no one even noticed the whole wheat in there – I love being sneaky!