I started this bake assuming this post would end up being as boring as the scones. The recipe is short, the dough apparently comes together quickly and, with only a couple of rising times, a loaf happens.
Well, that assumption was terribly, terribly wrong.
This turned out to be the grossest bake yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I got home from work, ate half a bag of white cheddar popcorn in front of Netflix and eventually got up to throw together the dough. First up? Flour, salt, yeast and oil.
I remember being told in a previous bake not to let the salt touch the yeast, so I tried to do that here too (even though Paul said nothing about it).
Salt on the sides, yeast in the middle—just like a really disgusting margarita.
Without mixing those together (because Paul says nothing about mixing them pre-water), I added the cold water and mixed with my hands (because he does talk about using your hands).
As you can see, this is already getting messy. And just to warn you, the photos in this blog post are not great because I kept having to try and wash my hands in order to handle my phone but I had to wash off a glove’s worth of sticky dough. It was already pretty gross before the truly disgusting step happened.
But I mixed and mixed and added some more water because there was too much flour still—am I the only one who has too much flour every time?—and eventually it started to look like this:
Good enough to throw onto a floured work surface and knead, I think.
I was getting a little worried because it seemed there were pockets of oil, which would make sense considering the contentious relationship oil has with water. So I kept kneading, took a two-minute video of a Tupperware lid when I meant to take a photo, and eventually ended up with this beauty:
Now at this point I would usually congratulate myself and throw this sucker into an oiled bowl to rise, but that’s not the case with this bake.
I have to add cherries and chocolate chips.
A few things before I get into that.
Firstly, we don’t seem to have “jars of black cherries” here in the Great White North. I did, however, find a can of “pitted Bing cherries.” Bing cherries? I have never heard of these before. There is a photo of dark cherries on the can, so I assumed this would be good enough. I knew enough to know I wanted something better than maraschino cherries. But Bing? That’s a thing? Really?
Secondly, I wasn’t sure how to “mix in” cherries and chocolate chips. In a cookie mix? Sure? In a cake mix? Of course. In muffins? Easy peasy. In bread? Um, excuse me?
I assumed I would need to knead—a lot. So that’s what I prepared for.
I flattened the dough a bit in order to make it easy to wrap around the cherries because I figured that would be the best way to start this kneading-as-mixing process.
Then I opened the can of cherries, drained them in my colander and stared dubiously at the size of cherries compared to the amount of dough.
This is where things got gross.
I put those cherries in the middle of the bread dough and wrapped the dough around it like a sweet calzone. Or a hand pie. Or a pizza pocket. You get it. This seemed like a logical way to get kneading.
How can I explain what happened next without sounding terribly disgusting?
You know what? If I had to live through it, then so do you.
My initial though was, This must be what it’s like to do an autopsy and get your hands in someone’s guts. My second thought was, This is like popping a giant zit. My third thought was, I wonder if this is what would happen if I squeezed a fish too hard.
And on and on it went.
The sounds were almost as horrifying as the physical sensation of squeezing a bunch of juicy cherries inside of a thin bread dough.
The squishing and the sloshing, the shlooping and the glooping were what I imagine (to reuse a simile) an autopsy would sound like.
Again, I had to live through this, so you can handle reading it.
After the initial ick factor started to subside, I was left devastated. My beautiful bread dough was mangled and sloppy and disgusting. It was goop-city and I felt like I had been slimed in some cruel prank.
Paul said to “add some flour if it gets sloppy” and I swear I added another 200 grams of the stuff to try to deal with this mess.
My beautiful dough. What have I done to you?
Instead of giving up, though, I powered through and added enough flour to deal with the mess and eventually got it to a texture that was appealing and not vomit-inducing. Then I had to add the chocolate chips.
A mix of dark and white because who doesn’t love good chocolate (dark) with terrible chocolate (white)?
Now, adding this was almost as tricky as adding the cherries (though not nearly as disgusting).
To avoid watching chocolate chips roll off the dough and onto the floor, I added a little bit at a time and kneaded them in slowly. They kept popping out or falling out of the dough so I’d push them back in like thumb tacks.
Thumb tacks and autopsy guts—delicious, right?
Soon enough the dough came together and I assumed the cherries and chocolate chips were evenly distributed. I didn’t know how I’d check this, but I was starting to get sick of this bake and found myself not caring.
Then I left that to rise for an hour.
*one hour later*
After an hour, I checked on the dough and (thankfully) it had doubled in size. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how it would rise with so much weighing it down.
Now, I did do a little bit of research before this bake and found a video of Paul Hollywood doing a two-strand plait for his bread. This was important because all he says in the recipe is to “do a two-strand plait” and doesn’t explain at all how to do that.
I’ve never been one who’s good at braids. I can only do one in my hair if it’s long enough that I can see what I’m doing in a side-braid situation. I can’t do them without looking. I can’t do French braids. I have no idea how girls do that braid that goes along their hairline or down into a ponytail. And when people start doing different amounts than three strands, I assume sorcery. Needless to say, I needed some direction.
If this was an episode of Nailed It, I’d hit my panic button.
But this isn’t an episode of Nailed It (unfortunately) and instead of a panic button, I have the world of YouTube at my disposal.
Hence, this video.
I watched it three times earlier today trying to understand what he was doing and nothing. It did not compute in my brain. I watched it again just before doing this plait and all I could hear was him saying, “One down, two up, one down, two up, one down, two up.” (And, I must say, it did actually help.)
First I separated the dough and patted it out into a long rectangle, like he said.
Then I folded it like Paul and started rolling.
(I apologize for the blurriness. This part was tricky to take photos of.)
After rolling out one half into a rope, I got started on the second half.
Then I criss-crossed them and took this professional-quality shot:
One down, two up. One down, two up. One down, two up. One down, two up.
There were a couple moments of uncertainty where I did one up, one down, two up, one down, two down, one up, one two, down up, but I eventually got there and I think it looks pretty good, don’t you?
Next up? Second rise.
*another hour later*
I must say, I’m pretty pleased with this. From that crime scene to this beauty, I’m happy to see things turning around for the better.
Plus, it rose again!
Now it’s time to bake this thing.
Twenty minutes at 425 degrees, then drop down to 400 degrees for another 20-25 minutes, according to Paul.
Since my oven usually requires a little longer and since this kept rising within the oven, I decided to stick with the higher end of the spectrum and kept he timer at 25 minutes.
By the time I pulled it out, though, it was beyond golden brown (and a little unevenly cooked).
I mean don’t get me wrong, it looks stunning (if I do say so myself), but it seemed really dark. I didn’t even do an egg wash on top.
That’s when I checked the bottom.
People don’t need to see the bottom of a loaf, right? That’s not where people are looking?
Or, you know, if it’s still bad in the morning, I’ll do a quick shave and make it as good as new.
For now, my eyes are tired and my brain has almost forgotten the slushing sound of cherries-in-bread-dough.
I bid you good night, dear readers.
P.S. I snuck a bite. Not bad. I mostly just tasted dark chocolate.
*the next day*
When I brought a cutting board and bread knife to the baking table at work, the few people still left in the office (and not off on summer adventures) started to get excited. And, because I can’t not tell people, I had to apologize for the burnt bottom. We then got onto a discussion of the old wives’ tale of burnt bits having the most nutrients vs. more recent scientific reports of burnt bits being a carcinogen.
Thankfully they were able to look past the potential cancerous quality of my bread and everyone enjoyed it. A couple people even came back for seconds and, out of that entire loaf, there were only three pieces left at the end of the day. I was expecting, well, not that.
Plus, my British-heritage friend was really excited when I said “chocolate and cherry loaf” because she actually recognized that as a thing. I thought it was a random mix care of Paul Hollywood, but apparently it’s a British tradition. And she said it was delicious.
Another success! (Minus the cancer, thumb tacks and autopsy.)