cardamom(?) bread

I finally got a chance to bake Zak’s cardamom bread posted in Barbara’s Tigers and Strawberries blog. The recipe measures are by weight in ounces. I don’t usually weigh ingredients – I’m a bit casual with measuring when I make bread. So much of it is by feel. But with new recipes, I try to follow the instructions exactly.

I have two kitchen scales; neither is accurate enough to measure ½ ounces. So I had to convert the recipe to grams. And still neither scale is really that fine so I confess I did a little bit of estimating (157gm flour is tricky to see on a smallish scale that only has markings at the 10s). I used unbleached allpurpose flour rather than bread flour and because I didn’t have any spelt on hand, I used whole wheat flour.

As Barbara mentioned, the sponge did creep up overnight through the dry ingredients. (Very cool! I love the aliveness of yeasted dough.) I don’t have an electric mixer… I had a little difficulty mixing in the dry ingredients using our wooden paddle. The dough was very much stiffer than most bread I make. So I dumped it all onto the board. And after 15 minutes of hand-kneading, the dough was silky smooth. Really silky. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by the smell of cardamom though. In fact I couldn’t smell any spices at all – it smelled like good bread dough, just not particularly spicy.

Shaping the bread was a snap. Did I mention that the dough was silky?! I put the shaped boule into a floured basket (about 9inch diameter across the top). At the time for baking, with trepidation I flipped the basket over onto a parchment covered peel. Yikes! The basket didn’t come off immediately. I jostled it a little and it popped off leaving a delicate pattern of itself imprinted on the dough. I’ve never had a whole lot of luck with sharp knives or razors for slashing so I used kitchen shears to cut a small eight pointed star at the center. And into the oven it went.

After 40 minutes of baking, I poked our instant read thermometer in the bottom and was happy to see the temperature shoot up to 210F. I placed the beautiful boule on a rack and listened in amazement to it crackling as it continued to finish cooking. I still couldn’t smell any cardamom – T claimed he did. All I could smell was recently baked bread and the freesias in a vase on the counter. And the bread really was beautiful! It looked almost exactly like the photo on Barbara’s post. (Really, we must get a camera!)

We had the bread with chicken soup made with rice instead of noodles. T stir-fried some green beans and threw those into the soup as well. Delicious soup!!

And how was the bread? Well, it was darn good. But Barbara was right – I should have used bread flour instead of all-purpose. The crumb was on the soft side – it was good, don’t get me wrong – it just wasn’t quite as chewy as we like. We also couldn’t perceive any of the spices in the bread. It was as if I hadn’t put any cardamom, allspice or ginger in at all.

Will I make this again? Definitely. But next time with bread flour and maybe a bit more wholewheat. And I will definitely be proofing in a basket again! Very cool. Thank you Barbara for the new recipe and method!

We still have half a loaf left and are going to have it for breakfast toasted and spread with soft goat’s cheese and red currant jelly. I have a feeling that it will make stellar toast. (Hmmmm, EoMEoTe is coming up, isn’t it??)

2 responses to “cardamom(?) bread

  1. Moira

    Oooh, I had high hopes when I read cardamom in the title of your post, but I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t really present! I’ve got to see if Rowena (at Rubber Slippers in Italy) has posted about her chocolate-cardamom bobka yet…now that’s gotta be incredible.

    I have to say that I do love the way you write about baking bread, Elizabeth- it’s very inspirational!

  2. ejm Post author

    I know what you mean about the cardamom. I was quite looking forward to the hint of it in the bread. I’m wondering if it’s supposed to be 1/2 Tbsp rather than 1/2 tsp of cardamom.

    Inspirational? Wow. Thank you, Moira! You really are too kind!

    If you’re looking for a cardamom fix, you should give vinarterta ( a try. It’s wonderful cake and the cardamom flavour is definitely present. Apparently, in Iceland, the filling can be made from rhubarb jam rather than prune – or possibly whatever fruit is on hand. I’d wager that it would be really good with apricot jam too.

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