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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pumpkin braided loaf with cream cheese filling: semi fail

This was an experiment.  I wanted to use up leftover pumpkin puree, leftover cream cheese, and an abundance of wild yeast starter.  I really liked the Cranberry Pumpkin Rolls I made a couple months ago, so decided to start with that recipe.  I altered it somewhat to add whole wheat flour and my starter, and used the technique from the Braided Lemon Bread to incorporate the cream cheese.

I wasn't completely happy with the results, but they weren't bad.  The biggest issue was I had too much dough for one loaf; I should have reduced the recipe by half.  Because the loaf was so large, it didn't cook properly and was a little dry on the edges.  I also didn't adjust the recipe for flavor due to the whole wheat, which made it slightly bitter and overwhelmed the spices (even though they were already doubled from the original.)  I played with the braiding technique (I don't like the mummy-wrap appearance of most false braids) and was happy with the result, but I still need practice.

Some of the bitterness might have been from too much starter, but I can't be sure.  I used about a cup, which is a lot, but my starter is fairly mild.  I would like to be able to omit commercial yeast entirely, but for this loaf I included 1 teaspoon.  (My starter had been semi-dormant in the refrigerator.  I fed it only once a few hours before mixing the dough, but it bubbled nicely.)  I allowed the dough to rise in a cold room overnight the first time; it took about 10 hours.  The second rise after shaping went much more quickly because the room was warm.  I think I could get away with no commercial yeast as long as I leave plenty of time for the starter to work.

So below is not what I did, but the changes I need to make for next time.  It still might not be perfect, but it will be closer.  This is half of the original King Arthur Flour pumpkin roll recipe with the following changes:  spices and salt are increased (even more than in my rolls, to account for the whole wheat); whole wheat flour, orange juice, zest, and pecans added.  I did not account for the starter.

2¼+ cups flour (mix of all-purpose and white whole wheat)
3/8 cup+ (3 ounces) orange juice
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (increased from 1)
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger (increased from 1/4)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
2-3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, light or dark
1 teaspoons salt (increased from 3/4)
1½ teaspoon instant yeast (or use starter)
3/8 cup (3 ounces) canned pumpkin or squash
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
zest of one orange
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup unsweetened, dried cranberries, reconstituted 
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 egg, remainder reserved for wash

Mix the flour and orange juice (and starter, if using) and allow to sit for 20-25 minutes for the moisture to be absorbed.  Add the rest of the ingredients and knead until you have a soft, fairly smooth dough, adding extra water or flour if needed. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise for 1½ hours, until it's almost double in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface and gently deflate it.  Roll out the dough into an approximate 10" x 15" rectangle. (Roll on parchment paper to make moving the bread to the baking sheet easier.) Lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, to divide it into 3 equal sections. Roll the outer sections out another inch or so.  Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section.

Braiding technique  The center third should be slightly thicker than sides; make sure top is wide and squared off, not tapered.  Cut strips about 1" wide, slanting them upwards.  Be sure to make cuts for strips from high on the top sides to start; those need to be folded across without pulling the top into a narrower point than the rest of the loaf, so allow plenty of dough.  The very top bit can be folded down, preferably under the filling, but build up a rim so filling doesn't fall out.  Strips should be gently rolled and lengthened into ropes.  When braiding, aim strips for about two places down on opposite side -- they need to be long.  Proceed with a lattice effect, making sure not to let strips lay on filling before they are finally secured.  Each strip should do one under and one over, which will allow the end to be tucked inside.  The filling will be exposed between the strips.  Tuck the final ends under the loaf and cut off any excess dough.  Set aside, covered lightly, to rise for 1 hour, or until it looks puffy.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Mix the remaining 1/2 egg with a little water and brush over the loaf. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.  The center should read about 190⁰F.  Remove from the oven and cool for about 30 minutes before serving.  

Based on:   recipes for Cranberry Pumpkin Rolls and Braided Lemon Bread via King Arthur Flour.

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