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Nourish 3 – Bake

I mentioned already how I bake when stressed, seeking the satisfaction of particular scents and flavours. Nourishing the spirit through the senses; nourishing the body through good food; now I turn to nourishing the mind and exploring.

Inspired by a thread on the Ravelry Knit ‘N’ Bake Group (Two digressions, just in case you’re already bored–One: how fantastic IS Ravelry? Really fantastic, that’s how. Two: when will we finally achieve the oft-silently-grumbled goal of formally eliminating the dreadful “‘n’” from our culture? Probably never. That’s when. Let’s try and move on, with whatever tools and drugs are at our disposal.) This time, I also decided I’d try to learn something different: using oats in baking.  Already in love with oats and with baking, baking oatmeal-based bread things seemed like a no-brainer. And I like them!  Using the oats as a base tends to make a chewier, denser bread, but I think I like it anyway. I’ve made oatmeal-based English muffins in the past, and I really liked the chewiness in those.  In these rolls, it was really good, too, but there’s room for exploration.

The thread on Ravelry talked a lot about different recipes, and the one I ended up going with was an egg- and dairy-free adaptation. The recipe I followed was posted in a thread, so I think it would be a breach of that poster’s privacy for me to quote them directly here, but it’s very similar to this recipe.  Essentially, it boils down to the same process: you make some oatmeal and mix in a little salt, butter and brown sugar; you proof some yeast in some warm sugar-water, then mix the two.  Then knead in your flour and, if you’re using any, eggs; and then you let the lot rise somewhere warm. After the dough has risen for an hour or so, you flatten it out, spread it with filling, and then roll into scrolls and chop them into little rolls and start rising them again, ideally in their baking tin so that they squash up against each other.

Pear-ginger-scrolls-1

My filling was a little bit more inventive than your standard cinnamon roll: I simmered chopped, overripe pear with some sultanas and candied peel, as well as some cinnamon and allspice and sugar, until it was all smooshy and aromatic.  Then I threw in some finely chopped glacé ginger.  Spicy! Delicious!  I learned things.  These are tasty, but too chewy on the outside, something that could be worked around with two extra steps: including some milk powder or milk into the dough, and by cooking them more squished up.

Pear-ginger-scrolls-3

You can see in this pic that the outer layers browned up quickly, drying them out far too fast. They still tasted okay, but that outer layer of the scroll was definitely drier and chewier, and I think that was a wee bit detrimental.  You can also see the white patches on the side where the scrolls were touching a little, which stopped those bits drying out.

In the middle, though.  Oh, in the spiral’s heart: that blend of soft, cooked fruit and spices kept the dough moistly tender and was really flavoursome. I think they’d be even better with cooked apple, sultanas and spices, but I wanted to use up the last, lonely, unloved overripe pear in the bowl and that worked nicely.  Next time: a sprinkle of brown sugar on top and maybe a little eggwash or milkwash before cooking.

Pear-ginger-scrolls-2

So, I learned things. I baked sweet and tasty rolls and found a new way of making bread: take some porridge and work in some proofed yeast, some flour (and maybe some milk and egg, if you like) and knead until you get a breaddough.  I love it when recipes speak to me, when I can see through all the measurements and think to myself “oh, they’re just doing [x]!” and then I can rocket off on my merry way and work my mojo.  That’s when you grok cooking.  That’s nourishing the brain, feeding it and opening it up in the scented steam of the oven. I like to think that this kind of breadmaking emerged as a way of making use of leftover porridge, but I completely made that up, so don’t be surprised if that statement fails your history-in-breadmaking essay.

I think I’d like to try making wholemeal, nut-and-spice rolls — or even bread loaves — using this technique, and I have a feeling that oatmeal-based bread doughs are a good idea for breakfast breads, being a little more protein-rich, weightier and stick-to-your-ribs-y. Further exploration is required in this matter, and this delights me and gives me something to look forward to.  A valuable state of mind to attain when you are three days into a non-specific and fatiguing virus, because it reminds you that there’s going to be a “later”, a time when your world isn’t confined to shuffling about with a headache (there is probably ample room for the comment to be made that I would move forward and into that time much sooner if I would stop baking things, but I think we can gloss past that, don’t you?).  I feel like my mind has been nourished: it has been entertained, stimulated and soothed, all at once.

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