Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blackout Cardamon Bread

I read somewhere that culinary innovations often result from accidents or mistakes. I had just such an experience last week.

At about 9:30 last Sunday night, in the midst of the worst blizzard in recent memory, our power went out. With the wind gusting up to 50 miles an hour, it was clear that the electricity wasn't coming back on any time soon.

What to do with the cardamon bread that I'd lovingly mixed, kneaded, braided, allowed to rise and was about to put into the preheated oven? Lost cause, I figured, casualty of the storm.

Then it hit me. It was all of 25 degrees outside, well below freezing. Put the dough outside and see what happens. So I packaged the loaf in plastic wrap and tin foil, opened the back door and tossed the bread into the snow.

There it sat for the next 18 hours. Yes, that's how long it took to get power back. With our furnce disabled, the temperature inside the house plunged to 47 degrees. We wrapped ourselves in triple layers of clothing and fled under the blankets in a losing battle to stay warm. After multiple calls to the utility and a plea to the First Selectman's office, power was finally restored around 3 p.m.

With the house slowly reheating, I retrieved the cardamon bread, now buried in snow. Amazingly, it was not entirely frozen. I heated the oven and put in the half-thawed bread.

The result: the best loaf I've ever made. The bread was fluffier, but still pleasantly dense with a richer, deeper flavor. My guess is retarding the rise made all the difference.

Clearly, freezing or putting the dough in the fridge overnight develops greater flavor and texture. I will have to try both methods. At least the blackout was good for something.

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