A ridiculous amount of time has been spent baking this week. Breads with and without yeast (with is superior, apparently), plain breads, flavored breads, sweet breads. I’ve stumbled upon a great crispy olive-oily bread twice now, and I can’t replicate it. Bolivian ovens are just plain bonkers. The temperature never regulates, the heating is irregular, and quite frankly I can’t even figure out if the listed numbers are in Fahrenheit or Celsius. I’m guessing Celsius. Not that it really matters, of course, since it LIES. Add to that the fact that I live in a valley bowl surrounded by mountains 8500 feet above sea level. The rainy season has just begun, which means that this time last month it was 0% humidity and right now it’s 0.0273% humidity. I probably didn’t pick the best spot in the world to try to figure out how to bake breads. I’ll return to the States – and subsequently a location with more water and more oxygen – bake a bread, and find that it’s exploded all over my kitchen.
Right, so, yesterday I went with a Monkey Bread. Sweet, gooey, etc. The monkey bread turned out reasonably in that the flavor was there but, going right back to the temperature issue, the middle was too doughy. Still, the sugary doughy results were sufficient to send the household into a carbohydrate-induced foggy haze.
I’ve had to alter the water measurements significantly… about double that of all of the recipes I’ve found online. I don’t know if this is due to the flour available here, the lack of humidity, the altitude, or a combination thereof. I just mix the lot until it looks how it’s supposed to look.
This may have something to do with my exceedingly irregular results.
(note: this was to feed 7 people plus possibly a few tea-guests.)
7 cups Flour
2 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Salt
6.5 cups Water
5 cups Sugar
4 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 cup Butter
Arbitrary amount of Honey
Monster-Sized Baking Dish to hold it all (greased)
Small baking dish
1 big mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl
I mixed the dry dough ingredients – flour, yeast, and salt – together in the big mixing bowl. and, um, I do mean big. Thanksgiving Turkey Big. Texas Big.
I then mixed in the water 1 cup at a time until the dough was sufficiently fluid. Very sticky and gooey. Mine is much clumpier than the recipes I’ve found for this dough mix tend to indicate online. It’d be smoother if I were using a mixer, but that would involve tracking down a transformer to ensure I don’t burn out my mother’s American current KitchenAid.
The dough was then left to rise for an hour. I covered it with a well-floured cloth (handful of flour on the cloth, rubbed the flour in, lightly shook off the flour) during that time.
After an hour, the dough had risen significantly. Bubbles were evident on top. Incidentally, this dough works as any general extra-yeasty bread dough. I’ve added more flour to make it bake like a normal bread, kept it flat and baked it in olive oil for a crispy rich bread, etc.
Meanwhile, the sugar and cinnamon were mixed in the medium sized bowl. Very cinnamon heavy. The monster-sized (still thinking Texas Big) baking dish was thoroughly greased with shortening and then floured.
I took fist-sized dollops of the dough and rolled/tossed/shook it in the cinnasugar mix until thoroughly coated. Those dollops were laid out comfortably in the baking dish until the dish bottom was covered. Poured butter and drizzled honey on top. I then layered more dollops on top, added butter and honey. I kept layering until I ran out of feasible space in the dish. Extra butter and honey on top with the remaining cinnasugar.
The monkey bread went on the top rack in the oven. Again, I live in crazy-high Cochabamba, Bolivia, South America, so I filled a small baking dish with water and put it on the bottom rack. That helps keep the oven humid. Or it would, were the air not so dry that it sucks every bit of moisture out of everything. Y’know.
Baked it for 30-45 minutes-ish at I-Haven’t-the-Foggiest temperature. It just looked right. With the unevenness of our oven, I should have turned it at least halfway through the process.
and, of course, the finished Monkey Bread of sugary foggy brains.