Sunday, 25 January 2015

Cinnamon, Hazelnut and Chocolate Swirl Bread

Now, I really should be writing my thesis. But after week after week of labouring in front of my computer, abusing my eyes by staring at the screen from morning till night, and gaining weight from sitting and eating all day long, I thought I should pick myself up and work on something else for a change.

I've said it many times, but I love love love bread making! I think all bread-makers do. There is just something that's so magical and captivating about the whole process. If I had to choose between baking a cake and making bread, I'd choose bread any day. I am still nothing but an amateur though, learning by reading (only onto Chapter 2 in Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish but I'm learning so much already!), watching (Paul Hollywood. Such a legend in the bread world. I love watching how he handles the dough with such confidence and care) and practicing. Slowly, I'm observing how small changes in the breadmaking factors can alter the structure and taste of it. (Can you tell I've been reading a lot of scientific literature?)

Two weeks ago I made Jamie Oliver's Sexy Swedish Buns. It came out alright. Everyone loved it. The flavours were bang on but I found the bread a bit too dry and dense for my liking. Then reading Ken Forkish, he mentioned that his doughs are highly saturated with water, which will facilitate the development of a softer bread. Makes sense. Also his breads are slowly fermented, starting off not by using warm water/liquid which so many modern recipes call for, but that of room temperature. The reasoning behind this is that slow ferments, as Paul Hollywood also mentioned, allows for the development of a richer and much more aromatic bread. Yeast and bacteria work together in this gentle process, releasing much esters, acids and other flavour compounds that would not have been produced at a higher temperature. Microbiology. Amazing.

In Michael Pollan's book Cooked, he discussed the symbiotic relationship between man and microbes. We rely so heavily on these microorganisms that we can't even see (90% of the cells in our bodies are bacterial cells!). In bread-making in particular, the yeasts break down the carbohydrates into components that are more easily digested. This only happens when they are allowed sufficient time in the fermentation process. The conventional 2-hour rise just doesn't cut it. Pollan also theorised that perhaps that is why so many of us develop gluten intolerances these days. The bread that we are eating nowadays have not been given enough time for the carbohydrates to be 'pre-digested' by the Saccharomyces. Our bodies have to work a lot harder in the digestion of bread and some people lack the enzymes for it.

So I tried the recipe again. This time adding more water and butter to the dough. All ingredients are at room temperature. Mixing the dough is pretty much impossible because of how wet it is. But I know the importance of developing that gluten to give strength to the bread. So I kneaded the super sticky dough for about 10 minutes. Because it was an enriched dough (it has egg and butter in it), it was almost like a brioche dough. And then I gave the dough lots of time to rise. It's such a hot summer day and ideally I should leave the dough overnight in the refrigerator for maximum development of flavour, but I wasn't THAT patient. I'll try that next time though.

After about three hours, I went to check on the dough. It has tripled in size and the gluten network is so much more developed compared to my first attempt of that recipe. I know it will turn out incredibly soft. After spreading, filling and shaping the dough, I gave it more time to redevelop that beautiful network structure. That structure is what makes the bread super soft and fluffy. So all in all it took about 6 hours to make the bread. That's a lot of time (though not as long as Ken Forkish's breads). But I only worked on the dough for 25 minutes. The rest of the time, it's all the yeast's and the bacteria's work.

The bread turned out incredibly moist, soft and fluffy. I'm so excited! This is only the beginning of my bread journey. I sincerely ask you to hop on my bandwagon. Twenty minutes worth of work and this is what you get. It's definitely much much better than any supermarket bread. It's so delicious and more importantly it doesn't contain any of the rubbish additives that those so-called breads contain. It tastes even more amazing knowing that you've nurtured it and brought it to life. And seriously, there's nothing better than the smell of bread and your family and friends would be so happy if you share it with them!

Cinnamon, Hazelnut and Chocolate Swirl Bread

For the bread:

350 g high grade flour
50 g wholewheat flour
80 g raw sugar, blended
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom 
Pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp yeast 
180 ml soy milk (or any milk you have on hand)
70 ml water
50 g melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp salt

For the filling:

3 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped hazelnuts 
20 g chopped dark chocolate 

For the decoration:

Raw sugar
Melted chocolate

1. Stir together all the dry ingredients. Set aside. 
2. Stir together all the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. I find using a butter knife is the easiest and most efficient. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment if you wish. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smoother. It will still be incredibly wet and won't really hold its own shape. 
3. Oil a large bowl, place the dough inside and cover with cling film. Leave at room temperature to proof until it has tripled in size. This will take about 3 hours on a warm day. 
4. Knock down by punching the dough. Tip the dough out onto an oiled surface and spread the dough into a rectangle using your hands. Oil your hands to make the process easier. 
5. Sprinkle the filling on evenly. Roll the dough up like a log and shape into desired shape. Place on lined baking tray.
6. Leave to proof a second time for about 1 and a half hours. Remember to cover with cling film. Then preheat your oven to 200C. Place a bowl of water in your oven to create steam. This will allow for a more even bake. 
7. Once your oven is preheated, sprinkle raw sugar on the dough then place in the oven to bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden.
8. Remove from oven. Look underneath your bread to check whether your bread is done. It should be nice and golden. When you tap your bread, it should sound hollow. 
9. Cool on wire rack. In the mean time, melt some chocolate over a water bath. Drizzle onto your bread. 
10. Serve.


1. Take your time with making bread. Use room temperature ingredients. A good pointer from Ken Forkish is treat time and temperature as ingredients. Long time at low temperature is what you're aiming for. 
2. It's important to use high grade flour, which contains larger amounts of gluten that will give you a really soft and fluffy bread. For this bread, I used 00 flour. 
2. Place a bowl of water in your oven to create steam. Remember to use a heat-proof bowl. Steam will create an even temperature environment so your bread will bake more evenly. Also, it will slow down the baking of the surface of the bread, allowing your bread to rise more. 

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