Vetekrans – For butter or worse.
After ages, I felt like myself in the kitchen yesterday. That is to say, like a baking obsessed maniac. Cooking up a storm for no rhyme or reason, with no mouths to feed. A massive cinnamon and cardamom wreath, an absolutely fantastic lunch of noodles with mango and aubergines with an abundance of herbs (which I must share just cos it was so so good), and a creamy meaty gravy with what I hoped would be tender, flaky biscuits that heartbreakingly turned out to be flat, slightly bitter slabs of sorrow. And last night, in my zeal and determination to give myself and the world a delicious, easy, true 100 percent whole wheat recipe, I found the night turn into morning in a whirl of time-lapse as my brain and laptop kept ticking. We will have to see where the whole wheat bread quest goes but I am so glad to be back in the kitchen and by my oven. A couple of you have remarked on my sudden distance from baking and me. Me, I’ve wondered why my new close to the earth, gluten-free, dairy free, halo is leaving me miserable. My theory is that it’s all got to do with butter. Really, if food is my art, butter has always been my muse. Have you ever wondered why so many of our food descriptives are derived from dairy… creamy, milky..buttery! I hate to say it, but when I cut out dairy, I cut out a lot of my own inspiration. It’s like a break up with someone you thought might be THE ONE. I keep hoping the passion is temporary. I will outgrow it. Something that hurts so much can’t be good for me etc.. Keep thinking each meeting is the last one, that last time for the final closure. But then a soft, velvety, salty pat of golden butter beckons and before I know it we’ve on that vicious cycle of making love. And war. Makes me wonder if I’m just fighting the inevitable. Perhaps, this marriage was just meant to be. Talking about wonderful marriages, let me tell you some about this bread that’s made of and for butter. I’ve meant to bake from the Great Scandinavian Baking Book for some time now. (And of course, having finally done so, I am kicking myself for not having gotten off my lazy behind, sooner.) From the abundant presence of cardamom all over the book, I’ve concluded that cardamom, to the Scandinavians is as vanilla is to the americans… the backdrop for everything sweet. Given this and my predilection for cinnamon rolls, I decided to inaugurate the book with a coffee bread that brought both cardamom and cinnamon together in a rich sweet bread Vetekrans. Apparently, the perfect accompaniment for coffee. Besides this and the fact that the bread looked unbelievably easy to my laziness, what attracted me to the recipe, is how the high level of hydration is (which I knew would lead to a soft moist bread). Do give this recipe a shot, I promise it’s almost fail-proof. You will be so pleased you did. Everyone who you share it with will love you. But only if you don’t start slathering the billowy fragrant bread with soft, salty butter as you sip your evening coffee. Or even worse dipping the tender clouds of bread in golden pools of melted butter. Because if you do that, you may just not know where to stop.
Adapted barely, from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book Beautifully fragrant with cardamom and cinnamon, this bread is a lot like a cinnamon roll, only more intriguing. I found the cinnamon-cardamom combination as amazing as it promised to be and though the book calls the almonds optional, the fabulous hint of nuttiness from the almonds was almost my favourite bit. Lighter and softer than most breads I have had, the dough comes together in a breeze and makes life rather easy, especially if you just stir it together the night before. The only thing I may change next time though, is to up the quantity of flour by a couple of tablespoonfuls to make the dough easier to handle.
For the dough:
- 3.25 tsp instant yeast or 4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm (not hot) water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (one 500gms packet and upto 1 cup extra)
- vegetable oil, for greasing bowl
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
For the glaze:
- melted butter for brushing
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot milk/water
- 1 tsp coffee
1. If using active dry yeast, sprinkle it over warm water, let sit for 10 minutes. 2. Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Add the warm water (with the active yeast if added), eggs, sugar, salt, cardamom and the instant yeast if you are using it. Add 4 cups of the flour in increments, mixing all the while to ensure an even mix. You may need to add another 4-8 tablespoonfuls but remember not to go over that. You are looking for a very moist, sticky dough that is too thick to pour, too sticky to knead. Can almost be stirred with a wooden spoon, albeit with some resistance. I ended up using a half kg packet of maida along with another 4 tablespoonfuls but may add a couple more the next time to make the dough easier to handle. Lightly grease a large bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough into oiled bowel, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 2-24 hours. Tip: The drier your dough, the drier your bread. The more moist dough will lead to a fluffy bread. 2. Grease a large baking sheet. Generously flour a clean surface with some of your remaining flour. Place dough the floured work surface, dust the top with more flour and roll out to a 20 x 20 inch even square. Make sure dough is rolled out evenly in thickness. Gently spread a thin layer of the softened butter all the way till the edge of the dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the butter. Sprinkle the chopped almonds evenly over the dough. 3. Starting from the long edge, roll dough tightly as a jelly roll and shape into a ring. Move ring from work surface to baking sheet and gently press edges together to seal. With scissors, cut 2/3 way through the ring at 1 inch intervals.Twist each cut piece so the cut side is exposed. (This post on simply recipes has a pic that describes the shaping procedure very well. But do note, the recipe they follow is very different from this one.) Note: For most regular home oven sheets, you may need to divide the dough and filling into two and split this into 2 wreaths. I have a large industrial oven so managed to fit it into a massive sheet. Just keep in mind, your shaped ring will double in size so you need a sheet that will fit it. You can also slice the jelly rolls through. place each piece in a muffin pan with the cut side down and bake them into individual bread-muffins (bruffins?). I’ve successfully tried this and found they bake for just a little bit less than the same time. Just as tasty and very cute. 4. Cover ring with a dry, clean tea towel and let rise for 45 mins to 1 hour. The dough should be puffy and almost doubled. Preheat oven to 190C degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with more melted butter. Allow Tea ring to cool on baking sheet for another 10 minutes. 5. In a mixie jar, powder the sugar till fine. Add in the rest of the ingredients and bled together till smooth. Drizzle on top of your bread. Enjoy! And don’t forget to love the butter..