Friday, April 17, 2009

CSA week 19 - German leek bread

Well, German onion bread with leeks substituted in, anyway.

Leek filling:
3 cups thinly sliced leeks (or yellow onions) [Luckily enough, that's exactly how much came in the CSA share.]
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon butter

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups flour

[You'll notice that I'm measuring this in volume instead of the better practice of measuring by weight. Partially that's because that's how the recipe I'm adapting is written, but given the uncertainty of the moisture level of the cooked leeks there's no real way to be precise. Use the volumes of flour and water as a rough guide.]

1. Mix all of the sponge ingredients and let it sit somewhere warm for an hour or twenty. Well, with the dairy in it, twenty probably isn't a good idea. Let it sit for as long as you're comfortable with.

2. To make the leek filling, melt the butter in the oil over medium heat. When it's stopped sizzling add the leeks, salt and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and reduced in volume by two thirds. [I cooked mine just a bit too long, but it still turned out fine so don't worry too much about it. My deep brown leeks were crispy, but I don't think that's what the recipe is aiming at.] Remove leeks, draining out most of the oil. Set aside to cool.

3. Mix three quarters of the leek filling with the sponge, flour and salt [holding back a little flour to give you some room to adjust the texture]. Adjust flour and water until you get a soft, but not sticky dough. Let sit for 20 minutes to autolyse then knead until gluten is well formed.

4. Let rise in a bowl covered with a damp cloth until doubled in volume. Stretch and fold and form into the final loaf. [I chose a wide flat shape to make the next step easier. The original recipe cuts it into six pieces and rolls those out into eight-inch lengths to make horseshoe-shaped rolls] Press the remaining leeks into the top of the loaf, cover and let rise until doubled again. [Only 45 minutes with my rather active yeast.]

5. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450 degrees (with your cast iron dutch oven in it if you're using that). When the dough's ready, bake for 30 minutes at 450 and 30 at 375 until the internal temperature reaches 210. The usual method of tapping the bottom to listen for a hollow sound doesn't work with this loaf. [My intention was to lower the heat from my usual method to avoid burning the leeks on the top of the loaf, but I neglected to turn down the heat for the first half hour.]

You can see the leeks on the outside blackened. They taste a little burnt, but they aren't too bad. And they come right off when cutting slices so they're kind of a waste anyway. Otherwise, the crust is light, crisp and flaky and the crumb is dense and soft with a bit of chew to keep it from wadding up like Wonderbread. The flavor is rich, hearty and a little sweet. It's not a flavor that calls out for snacking on its own; (A welcome change. Maybe I won't eat half the loaf within the hour for once.) It requires cured meat. Sausage is the obvious choice, but I think lox or smoked herring would work really well, too. Stinky cheeses are also a suitable accompaniment.

I've never made a specialty bread like this before. I wonder if I'll get tired of it before it gets stale.


kat said...

But it would be good dipped into a hearty soup. I always have problems with stuff falling off the top of my bread loaves & found an egg wash solves that.

billjac said...

Soup's a good idea too.

I thought about an egg wash, but I don't think it will work well with my enclosed-cooking method. I don't recall ever trying it, but my gut says either it'll clog up the steam release or it'll curdle in pressure-cooker atmosphere. I suppose I have to try it now to find out.