Ghost Loaf and the death of an oven

Last week I posted a recipe for wholegrain and millet sourdough, and mentioned that one of the loaves did not come out of the oven as I would have hoped.

pasty_loaf
The pasty ghost loaf. Over proofed, and worse!

The large loaf ended up with a pasty, dull coloured crust and an uneven rise. After thinking about the disappointing results from a few angles, I’ve decided that three factors combined to create the unfortunate looking “ghost loaf”.

  1. The dough was over-proofed – Although the dough was refrigerated overnight in the same manner as previous loaves, it was significantly larger, and probably took longer to cool in the fridge. This would mean that it was proofing for longer than intended. The deflated look around the slashed parts and uneven colouring also point to over-proofing. Additionally, in a seriously over-proofed loaf, much of the sugar in the bread that causes the colouring has been used up.
  2. The crust developed a skin– also during the refrigeration process, the dough seemed to have dried out. This made it difficult to cut, but also had an adverse effect on the conversion of starch to sugars in the crust.
  3. The oven temperature was not high enough – The other loaf baked from this batch of dough, as well as being smaller and the first out of the fridge, was baked in a cast iron pot. This would have created a more concentrated, hot, and moist environment, all of which would have aided the colouration of the crust. The next time I baked with the oven, I placed an oven thermometer on the inside. At maximum, the thermometer only reached 180˚C – it looks like my little gas oven has finally given up!
ghost loaf
The slash opened out, but it looks as though the sugars in the loaf, for one reason or another, were not caramelised

So, three factors combining to make this pasty looking “ghost loaf”. The loaf was cooked through, and actually tasted good,  but between now and when we get a new oven, it looks like we’ll be baking at low temperatures, or visiting someone else’s house to bake!

Cinnamon Swirl Fruit Loaf

This is just a quick post with one of my favourite fruit loaves – a cinnamon, sultana, and walnut fruit loaf with a swirl of cinnamon sugar through the middle. Using plain (all-purpose) flour gives the loaf a flakier, more crumbly texture than strong bread flour, making this loaf somewhere between a loaf and a cake. It’s also great toasted with fruit jam.

cinnamon_swirl_fruit_loaf
A light, flaky fruit loaf with a swirl of cinnamon sugar through the centre.

Cinnamon Swirl Fruit Loaf – makes 2 loaves

  • 450g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 20g white sugar
  • 9g salt
  • 6g instant yeast
  • 5g ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 30g butter at room temperature
  • 110g whole milk at room temperature
  • 170g water at room temperature
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g currants
  • 100g walnuts, chopped
  • Additional 1/4 cup of white sugar plus 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, combined
  • Poppy seeds, optional
  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the fruit, walnuts, and cinnamon/sugar mix in the bowl of a mixer or in a large bowl.
  2. If kneading by hand, combine the ingredients, then turn the dough onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes.
  3. If using a mixer, combine the ingredients with the paddle attachment on a slow speed, then knead for several minutes with the dough hook until the dough is elastic. Turn out onto the counter.
  4. Spread the dough out and pour over the sultanas, currants, and walnuts. Knead for another 2 minutes by hand to combine the extra ingredients. Shape the dough into a rough ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and bulk ferment for approximately 2 hours, or until doubled.
  5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape into balls. Rest for 5 minutes. Gently press the dough into a rectangle, working with one piece at a time. Spread the cinnamon/sugar mix over the dough, and roll it up to create the swirl (see photo below). Pinch the seam together, shaping for a loaf tin.
  6. If using, roll the loaves in poppy seeds. Place into greased loaf tins (8.5 x 4.5 inch). Dust the tops with flour or mist with spray oil. Cover loosely with cling film. Proof for 1-1.5 hours until risen about an inch over the lip of the loaf tin.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180˚C with the rack on the middle shelf.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pans half way through.
  9. Remove to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before slicing.
cinnamon_dough
The dough, covered in cinnamon sugar, read to roll into a loaf