Viennese Bread – Sweet Dough Series No. 2
I made Viennese bread by mistake this week. I’ll explain. I asked the children to look through the “Sweet Pastries and Breads” section of my bread book, The Larousse Book of Bread, by Éric Kayser and choose something they wanted. They decided on vanilla rolls.
Like most of the recipes in The Book of Bread, it required a sour dough starter. I made the starter a few days in advance (more about this later), and got my ingredients for the rolls together. I thought it was strange that I hadn’t noticed that the recipe required powdered milk when I read it before, I put my coat on and went to Tesco to buy some. It was only after I got home and had made the dough when I realised that the recipe I was following wasn’t for vanilla rolls at all, but for Viennese Bread. They both began with a “V” and they looked a bit similar in the photos, but really?
I’d gone so far down the road to Viennese bread that I couldn’t turn back. The vanilla rolls would have to wait for another day. Here’s how the bread turned out.
This is how I made it, and what I learned.
As I said at the top, the recipe needed a starter. The only recipe in the Larousse Book of Bread that doesn’t use a liquid starter seems to be the Paris bun recipe that I tried last week. I have made a starter a couple of times before when I had a go at making sour dough. It wasn’t quite right.
I wasn’t in the baking zone at all this week, because I made a mistake following the starter recipe as well. Making the starter is a four-day process and I accidentally followed the instructions for Day 2 on Day 1 (the instructions were the same, but the ingredient amounts differed and I used twice the amount that I was supposed to).
On Day 1 I mixed rye flour with water and added some clear honey. I covered the bowl with a cloth and left it for 24 hours. The bowl was supposed to be in a warm place. We don’t really have anywhere that’s particularly warm. The weather was good so the heating wasn’t on so just normal room temperature would have to do (although I did wrap the bowl in tea cosy for a tiny bit of extra insulation).
On Day 2, I repeated the process, using the correct measurements this time. Then I combined my mixture with the starter from Day 1. I put the bowl in the warmest place we had, which was on the window sill in our living room. The children were under strict instructions to keep away.
The recipe says that on Day 3, the mixture will be bubbling noticeably. My starter did have a few bubbles, but I wouldn’t say that they were particularly noticeable. I repeated Day 2 and crossed my fingers for a few more bubbles.
Day 4 was the last day. I added plain flour instead of rye flour this time and some water. The mixture was supposed to have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Mine was more like a Victoria sponge mix so I added more water. After this, according to the recipe, it should be ready to use.
As I explained last time, it’s a mixer all the way for me when it comes to making dough. I put plain flour, sugar (the recipe didn’t specify the type so I used granulated on the grounds that, when I made the Paris buns, the recipe stipulated caster or, for the Americans, superfine sugar) and salt into the bowl of my Kitchen Aid. It was here that I saw that I was missing the milk powder, and ran off to Tesco to get it. I added it to the bowl along with the starter and some easybake yeast. The recipe said that I should also put water into the KitchenAid at this point, but I started to mix before I poured the water in. Like last time, the dough was still very dry after I’d used the recipe amount of water. I slowly poured some more in and stopped when the dough came together.
I kneaded the dough with the mixer on slow for four minutes and then cranked up the speed for six. After that, I added some softened butter and, keeping the speed up (the recipe doesn’t say how fast you should knead once the butter has been added) I kneaded the dough for another four minutes.
Just like last time, once the butter had gone in, the dough seemed to turn into cake mix, but did firm up again. It was only when the recipe said that I should add chocolate chips if I was using them, and not vanilla, that I realised that I wasn’t actually making vanilla buns. Sometimes I really do fear for my sanity.
I shaped my Viennese bread dough into a ball, covered it with a damp cloth and left if to rise for an hour.
What is Viennese Bread Anyway?
So, I was making Viennese bread. The Larousse Book of Bread isn’t one of those books that give you a bit of history about the recipes, it just dives straight in with the method. While my dough was rising, I turned to Google.
The bread I was making is more commonly known as Vienna Bread, rather than Viennese (although it is called pain Viennois in French). According to Wikipedia, Vienna Bread was originally made using a particular type of yeast which produced a sweet-tasting bread, and flour produced by a process known as “high milling” which resulted in a light texture. The bread was also baked with steam which, it was found, affected the characteristics of the crust. Originally, the steam was produced by putting wet hay into the oven. I’m glad we don’t do that anymore. Usually, Vienna bread is baked in the shape of a baguette, but it tastes sweeter and has a softer crust.
The Viennese bread was supposed to be the same shape as the Paris buns I made last time, although the shaping instructions had an extra step. I suspect that a sentence was left out of the Paris bun recipe – Phaidon Publishing take note. I divided my dough into five pieces and left them to rest for fifteen minutes.
To shape the dough into batons, I squashed each piece into a rough oval shape, and folded a third into the middle. I turned the dough around and folded the other side into the middle and joined the edges together. Then I folded the whole thing in half, sealed the edges, and rolled the dough into a baton shape. The recipe says that they should be around 15cm long. When my batons reached 15cm they were a lot fatter than those in the picture.
I put the batons on a baking sheet with the join underneath and I brushed the tops with egg. I put them into the fridge for ten minutes.
The recipe suggested scoring the dough using a “sausage cut”. The Book of Bread has pictures which show you how to do it. I don’t have any specialist bakers’ scoring equipment, basically a razor blade with a handle, so I sharpened a small knife and made several diagonal cuts down the length of my batons.
So, scoring is an important part of the bread making process because it controls the direction in which the dough expands when it bakes. If you don’t score the dough deeply enough, the carbon dioxide can’t escape through the cuts and the bread will spilt. Had I scored my Viennese bread well enough? I had no idea.
After I’d complete the sausage cut, I brushed the top of the batons with egg once more and left them to proof for an hour and a half.
This is where I fell down. The oven temperature in the recipe is 160°C. I wasn’t sure whether I’d need to adjust it downwards because I was baking in a fan oven. A twenty degree decrease to 140° seemed really low to me. I didn’t really have time to investigate further because I had to get the bread into the oven if I wanted to get them done before I picked the children up from school. I went with 140°. Before I put the bread into the oven I poured water over a baking tray that had been heating up in the oven. I didn’t really get the puff of steam that I was expecting. I put the bread into the oven.
After the fifteen minutes baking time set out in the recipe, I checked the bread. It was very pale. Time was running out, so I turned up the heat to 160°. I left it for another five minutes, then another five and then another two.
I was facing a dilemma. The bread didn’t look cooked but, if I left it in the oven while I picked everyone up from school, they would probably be burned by the time I got back. I decided to it out. The batons were a bit on the pale side, and it looked as thought not all of the scoring had worked properly.
Was it Worth It?
As I suspected, the bread was a bit underdone. It tasted OK but the texture was doughy. The children really liked it though. I think it’s because it was just that little bit sweeter than “normal” white bread. I’m happy that I made it. Even though the rolls were a bit on the chewy side, the taste was good. As the children said, much nicer than your normal supermarket loaf. They didn’t say anything about the fact that they weren’t vanilla rolls either. I had mine with butter and jam, but I think they’d work just as well with ham and cheese.
Lessons for next time are: (1) read the recipe – if you want to make vanilla rolls, make sure that’s what you’re making, (2) check that the oven temperature is right, (3) make sure the loaf is well scored and, (3) if you have to be somewhere for a particular time, leave the baking until later.