Sourdough and Lemon Curd Redux: A Fruit Calzone for Sheldon
(isn’t it more elegant than it sounds?)
On my last few bike rides, I felt like my front wheel was doing something funky. It just felt a little…. wobbly. However, I’m completely incompetent at bike maintenance, so I didn’t really know how to fix it. It made me realize that my bike hadn’t had a once-over before the season began, and it probably needed one.
I devised a plan: I would use baked goods to convince Sheldon, the computer/network guru and accomplished cyclist who works at the Center, to teach me about bike maintenance. Yes, bribery is how I function.
I had been inspired for several days by the Braided Lemon Bread writeup on Smitten Kitchen. As Sheldon “doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth”, a fruit dessert seemed appropriate. However, I wanted to make a couple of modifications. I’m still in love with my sourdough starter, and I was intrigued to experiment with using it in a sweet bread dough. We also still had some strawberries frozen from last year, which I felt we should start using since strawberry season can’t be far away. So: Braided Sourdough Strawberry Lemon Bread, that’s what I would be attempting.
My approach to sourdough is pretty unscientific. I usually just put a dollop of (fed) starter in a bowl, and go from there – none of this measuring business. In this case, I had to make the dough by feel, since I wasn’t entirely sure what the hydration of the suggested overnight starter had been. I also ran out of plain yogurt, so I used half vanilla and omitted the sugar from the recipe.
After I let the dough rise, I rolled it into a thin rectangle, mixed up the cheese filling, and the fun began. I’ve made a few braided breads before, but they were all simple 3-strand braids. I really like the look of this technique, which is called a “mock braid” – it’s more delicate.
I was really nervous this whole time that the bread was going to turn out completely flat. The dough had barely risen at all in the first rise; then, I had rolled it so thin that the braid barely had any height to it when it was resting for its second rise. What if I had totally blown it with this whole sourdough experiment? Not only would I be disappointed with myself, but I wouldn’t have anything to give Sheldon. After the second rise, I brushed the top with an egg wash, stuck it in the oven, and hoped for the best.
Luckily, things turned out okay. The dough puffed up nicely in the oven. My braiding isn’t quite as graceful as it could be, but for a first try, I think it looked pretty good. (Good enough that I’m submitting it to YeastSpotting!) The sourdough worked fine – the finished product didn’t taste sour. I’m not sure, really, what the point is to using sourdough here – it tastes a little different but many of the other tastes mask the difference. Mostly, you just don’t have to use store-bought yeast, and can brag about it.
Sheldon seemed to like the bread. “What do you call this?” He asked. I waffled a bit: Braided Sourdough Lemon Strawberry Bread is way too much of a mouthful. “Is it, like, a…. a fruit calzone?”
I don’t really like comparing my braid to a kind of pizza, but it’s not entirely inaccurate. And Sheldon seemed to relish calling it a “fruit calzone”, so I let him run with it. We had a nice evening fixing up my bike – I had never taken a front hub apart, and we re-greased the bearings so that things don’t wobble as much. I feel much safer now. I also feel a bit more competent to check over my bike before I head out on my next ride so that I can make sure nothing is about to break, which is always a good thing. Thanks Sheldon!
“Fruit Calzone” (Braided Sourdough Lemon Strawberry Bread)
~1 cup fed sourdough starter
6 tablespoons yogurt (3 each of plain and vanilla)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups white bread flour
Mix yogurt, butter, egg, sugar, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the sourdough starter and mix together until somewhat smooth. Then start adding the flour, first one cup, then a second cup, and then more as needed. The dough should be smooth, but not too heavy. I usually add as much flour as I think necessary, let the dough sit 20-30 minutes, and then knead it, adding more flour if necessary. It allows me to not over-add flour.
So, after kneading it, let it rise for an hour. Then take the dough out of the bowl, stretch it into a rectangle, and fold it into thirds twice (once in each direction). This should take less than a minute. Return it to the bowl and let it rise for another hour. At the end of the hour, prepare the fillings.
Sweet Cream Cheese Filling: mix everything in a bowl.
1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons white flour
Lemon Curd: I used the lemon curd that I had made a few weeks ago from a recipe at nam-nami. It’s pretty easy to make, and you certainly don’t need a whole jar for this recipe. You can buy it, too, if you aren’t up for making it yourself.
Some strawberries: Yup, just some strawberries. I didn’t do anything special to them.
Assembling the bread:
Cut the dough in half. For each half, use the following technique. Roll the dough into a large, thin rectangle. You can experiment with what sort of rectangle you want: a more square one will lead to a shorter, fatter braid, and a long skinny rectangle will lead to, well, a long skinny braid. Gently score the rectangle vertically into three sections. The middle section will be where you put your filling. First, spread half the cream cheese filling in this section, leaving a bit of space at the ends. Then, spoon some lemon curd on top of the cream cheese, and spread it around. Finally, place strawberries on top of the whole thing. Then, work on your side sections. Cut out squares at the four corners, so that your side sections start and end where the filling is in the middle section (hope this makes sense). Then, divide the remaining part of the section into braid strands (you can see this in the photo above, and there’s a great demonstration at the Smitten Kitchen post that I referenced). Once all your cuts are made, fold the unfilled ends of the middle section over the filling, and start braiding. Take the top strand from one section and lay it diagonally over the filling (which will be partially covered by dough). Take the top strand from the other side and lay it over the first strand. Continue. When you get to the end of the braid, you’ll have to fold the ends of the strands under the bottom of the loaf.
Now: let your braids rise for an hour or so, then brush the tops with a beaten egg and pop them in the oven at 375 degrees. They should bake for about 30 minutes or until they look done… yeah, I usually judge bake time visually.