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New year cherry blossom

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I had intended to post today on a loaf of bread decorated with a stencil of Chinese characters that read "good fortune". Good intentions, unfortunately, don't always pan out, and so I am posting on something else but still on bread.
But before that,
to all who celebrate and wishing you Good Fortune this Year of the Snake!
It's good to have a sweet yeast dough in one's baked goods repertoire. The dough can be filled or topped or layered with fruit and streusel, and even made into plain rolls or a loaf.   
This kuchen resembles cake in taste – and a little in looks too. Cakes may be quicker to whip up, but I prefer this bread topped with cherries, chocolate and crumb topping. It isn't as rich or high in fat, but it still tastes fantastic.
The dough doesn't take long to mix. It doesn't have a high hydration and is easy to knead by hand.
Incorporating the butter with the 'clothes wringing' kneading method
To incorporate the butter, I use a "clothes wringing" method which I read about in The River Cottage Bread Handbook. The pictures above show the process done with only one hand – the left is holding the camera – but both hands are actually necessary! This kind of simulates the movement  of the dough hook of a stand mixer.
For this, the kneading is done in the mixing bowl. Hold the dough at opposite ends and then wring it as if you are wringing out wet washing so that the dough is twisted (left pic). Then, fold the dough in half so that the two ends meet, holding both ends in one hand (right pic). Hold on to the midsection that is folded (it's now the opposite end) and twist the dough again. Repeat until all the butter is incorporated.
I must say it's very therapeutic. Try humming along with the movement.
This is submitted to YeastSpotting.
Russian Rose Braid made with this basic sweet dough
Basic Sweet Dough
Adapted from Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads by Ciril Hitz

350g full-fat milk, cold is fine
1 medium egg
1 tsp lemon essence
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
660g bread flour
7g malt powder
13g instant yeast
70g caster sugar
13g salt
70g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Combine the milk, egg, essence and vanilla seeds.
In a mixing bowl, combine all the other ingredients except the butter.
Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix to incorporate. The dough will be a little dry at this time. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Add the butter in three batches, incorporating it well after each addition. By this time, the dough will come together in a ball.
Knead the dough to develop the gluten using whichever method is comfortable. Cover and set aside at room temperature to bulk ferment, 1-2 hours.
Transfer the dough to a lidded plastic container sprayed with oil and store in the refrigerator overnight.
This makes a large amount of dough (about 1.4kg) and it can be divided into two or three portions. These can be stored in separate containers in the refrigerator for up to four days. For longer storage, wrap portions in cling film, place each one in a plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to two weeks. Thaw frozen dough in the fridge overnight before using.
What's kuchen?
Cherry Chocolate Kuchen
Serves 8-10
½ batch Basic Sweet Dough
½ a 425g tin of pitted cherries, drained
1½ tbsp medium chocolate chips

Crumb Topping
From Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads by Ciril Hitz. Makes 2½ cups. Use half batch for the kuchen. Store the remainder in a lidded container in the fridge.

160g all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp baking powder
120g light brown sugar
 tsp table salt
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
115g cold unsalted butter, roughly chopped

Make the crumb topping: Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the cold butter and cut into it with pastry cutter or rub in with fingertips until the mixture looks like sand with a few larger clumps.
Assembling the kuchen
Assemble the kuchen: Lightly oil a 28cm x 24cm baking pan (or equivalent size). Press the dough into the pan. If it resists and springs back, set aside to relax for about five minutes, then continue. Dimple the dough with the fingertips.
Break the cherries into two and spread them over the dough. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and then with half the crumb topping.
Cover the tray with cling film and leave to rise, about 1 hour. Alternatively, the tray can be placed in the refrigerator overnight to rise slowly.
Preheat the oven to 165°C. Bake the kuchen for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the cooking time. The top will be nicely golden and the bottom a light brown.
Place tray on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Eat warm or cool further before serving.

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