Friday, February 20, 2015

Cinnamon Craisin Walnut Sourdough

Hello everyone, OCD is going on a brief 2 week break after this post because I really need to study for my medical boards; unfortunately, baking will not help me rock my exams for my MD degree and residency! I'll keep posting on Instagram, so you can still follow me there :)

Fear not, I will return after my exam, hopefully alive. Wish me luck!

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Can you imagine sitting at home on your butt and studying +12 hours a day? Every single day? For almost 8 weeks? I couldn't. But here I am, studying a couple thousand questions for my medical boards, and I have no idea how I'm doing it.
It's a rather painful experience. Plus I found out how much I forgot (or never knew in the first place) from basic sciences. Like...the Krebs cycle....or embryology of the brachial pouches/arches/clefts ....or the tumor markers of every single cancer.

I've never taken time off to study for an exam; I just studied while in high school or college. But the US Medical License Exam (USMLE) is a beast and a rite of passage for all medical students. This 8 hour test gives you a three digit number that literally determines your medical career - where you can go and even what specialty you can choose. Oh and you can't retake it if you screw up.

Am I scared? Oh yes.
But I couldn't let all that sitting studying at home time go to waste. Hence, my newfound obsession with artisan bread baking and learning the art (or frustrations) of the sourdough rise. After all, sourdough requires watching the bread, and I can actually do that since I'm at home all the time now (studying of course...not, erm....looking up bread baking forums for deperate help).

In fact, I even listen to my Pathology audiotapes while kneading my bread - that's how dedicated I am to my education.
I wanted to make a Craisin Walnut Sourdough after becoming obsessed with the bakery bread used in my Apple, Bacon, and Walnut Panini and seeing similar recipe by Top with Cinnamon.

*before baking*
Chef Uy: OMG, that craisin walnut bread is SO expensive! I'll learn to bake it myself.
B: Of course, dear.
*after baking 8+ loaves of bricks*
Chef Uy: Ok, I'll fork over the money to buy the bakery bread -___-
B: Mnn-hmm, dear.


Baking sourdough has brought so many struggles but I think I've got it semi-down now - I've typed up two sets of direction - one that's for people who know bread baking terms already and one that's more detailed for beginning bakers. This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour which is nice because it includes a touch of yeast to help the rise a tad bit. And if there's anything I learned in this past month, it's how to have patience when rising my sourdough bread .... and my practice test scores.

Ingredients
1/2 cup "fed" starter (mine is from Carl's Starter)
1/2 to 3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups flour (I did 1 3/4 all purpose and 3/4 wheat), plus additional for kneading
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Directions (the TL:DR version)
Combined all your ingredients to form a dough.

Please dough in a greased bowl lined with parchment paper and cover. Let rise until double (1st rise).

Knead dough and let rise until double (2nd rise).

Optional: knead dough again and let it undergo a 3rd rise if dough is not stretchy/gluten is not fully formed yet.

After the 2nd (or 3rd rise), shape the dough and let it "rest" until puffy (~1 hr). Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray/rub the loaves with lukewarm water (or diluted milk for a golden brown). Make diagonal slashes in the loaf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

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Directions (detailed)
Combine fed* starter, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and flour in a bowl; stir to form a dough that comes together. Mix in cinnamon, craisins, and walnut pieces. The dough will be fairly wet - although harder to handle, supposedly a wetter dough yields better sourdough; so adjust as needed.

* A fed starter is crucial for a good rise. If you take it right out of the fridge, it won't be active.

Place dough in a greased bowl lined with parchment paper and cover to keep it from drying out; a dry surface forms a skin, preventing it from fully rising. Let rise until it's doubled in size.**

**A note on timing: I just eyeball by size, not by time, so the rising period can vary (for me, it was ~ 1-2 hrs each time). To speed it up, place in an off oven with the light turned on to keep it warm. To slow down the rising period, leave it in a cooler area like the fridge (I've left it overnight there for 10 hrs). A slower rise lets the sourdough develop more flavor. 

Once risen, knead it again, with a light dusting of flour if needed. Because the dough is wet and sticky, I recommend "kneading" by using a spoon to roll/pull dough onto itself while it's on top of a parchment paper inside the bowl. This minimizes the dough sticking to your fingers (thus reducing the need to add as much flour). Here and here and here are some videos to see how "wet" dough can be and tips on working with it. Let rise again in a greased, parchment paper lined, covered bowl until double in size for the second rise.

Gently shape and knead the dough into a ball. After the 2nd rise, the dough should be stretchy and pass the "windowpane test," showing the gluten is well formed.*** Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let it "rest" until puffy, about 1 hour; this is the resting period prior to baking

***optional: If your dough is not stretchy, or if it keeps flattening/won't hold its shape, you can knead and let the dough sit for a third rise. An additional rise gives time for more gluten strands to form and strengthen.

Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray/rub the loaves with lukewarm water (or diluted milk for a golden brown). Make diagonal slashes in the loaf so it can expand when baking.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

If you want more resources, check out KAF and The Clever Carrot

16 comments:

  1. I can unfortunately imagine all of that because I lived it too (sigh), but you're going to rock those exams and kick butt! Third and fourth year are infinitely more awesome, so just now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! <3 All my best to you!

    P.S. That bread looks amazing and delicious! <3!

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    1. Thanks Farrah! I always forget that other schools take it at the end of their 2nd year, not in the middle of 3rd year like we do!

      Looking forward to having a life again

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  2. Oh! I totally forgot--it was in the back of my head that you were also a third-year, but when you mentioned taking the test, I figured I'd remembered incorrectly and that you were just taking it early on in second year or something. Oops! :x

    Either way, life will be 3234928x better when you're done! Make sure you give yourself a break and do something awesome afterward to celebrate! :]

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  3. Yum, this bread looks delish. I like cranberry walnut combinations :)

    Good luck with your boards!!!!!!!! You will do great. Taking a blogging break is a great idea ~ we'll see you when you're back. I heard life after boards is 100x better than the weeks leading up to it. :) you're almost there!

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I'm just counting down the days. It won't be long til it's your turn ;)

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  4. The bread looks delicious! All the very best for your exams! :)

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  5. The bread looks awesome! I've always wanted to start my own "starter" but still have no courage to do so. Do you have weighted version (in oz / grams) of the ingredients?

    But don't worry, no need. Just concentrate on your exams! Goodluck!

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    1. Hi Didi, I do not have a kitchen scale, but when I feed, I alternate roughly 1:1 flour and water feeds (100%) and 2:1 flour and water feeds (50%) to get around 75%.

      However, sourdough starters are pretty durable so don't be afraid! I def recommend starting from an already established starter (be it a friend's or Carl's) - it's faster and gives better flavor since it's older. Good luck!

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  6. Love the craisin/walnut combo. Another favorite is craisin/white chocolate. Great recipe and thank for the detailed description. Good luck with the exam, it seems intense. Sounds like you're putting a lot of effort into studying, you'll do great!

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    1. Hi Matt, I've never tried a sourdough with chocolate so that's an interesting but fun sounding combo! Sounds like a holiday gift idea

      And thanks - hopefully all those months will paid off big time :)

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  7. I love the combination, definitely something I want to try. Good luck with your exams!!

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    1. Thank you! Can't wait to get back to baking after my medical boards :)

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  8. Good food is always my motivating factor through tedious times. Seems like you've got that down pat. This looks delicious!

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    1. Thanks! Good food is always a motivating factor in good times, bad times, and all the times :)

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  9. The bread looks legit my dear :) Like something you'd see at a bakery! Well done :D

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