I have a soft spot for The Netherlands. I spent a year and a half living there, in Delft immediately after leaving college, 20 years ago now… unbelievable. When I look back I only regret that there were a lot of things related to my present hobbies that I didn’t enjoy, like cooking and lacemaking (being so close to Belgium!). Mmm, those were the times when all my time was really mine, all the money I earnt was for me… No responsibilities, no mortgages, no children… Yes, those were the times. We’ll be spending part of our next vacation in The Netherlands, visiting good old friends, riding bikes and watching the tall ships. Therefore with rather anticipated nostalgia, I felt an urge to prepare this delicious and very typically Dutch sweet bread, suikerbrood, meaning sugar loaf, for the first time. And surely it won’t be the last.
I’ve searched the whole net for information on this bread, but the Dutch food blogging community doesn’t seem to be as large as other countries’, like mine for example. The information in Wikipedia is rather silly:
Suikerbrood or sûkerbôlle in Frisian, is a bread typical from the Northern region of The Netherlands, Friesland. Its shape has developed from a former round shape to a loaf type bread. The Frisian sugar bread contains 40% sugar and cinammon too. This bread is baked in some other parts of The Netherlands though, like Limburg in the south and North-Brabant, where the sugar content is lower (25%) and no cinammon is added. In Friesland this bread is presented as a gift to women who have just given birth to a girl.
It’s a pity I couldn’t use sourdough. I’m not baking very much lately because of the scorching heat, so my sourdough is quietly resting in my fridge. The real bread is fluffier than mine, I remember it being almost as airy as a pannetone, but the directions in the recipe I found called for a second proofing of only 15 minutes (???!!!). I proofed it 45 minutes and maybe it needed even somewhat longer. I must remark though that I used less yeast, because the recipe called for 25g fresh yeast for 1/2kg flour, and that’s a lot in my opinion. The final volume after baking should be almost 4 times the unleavened dough, my bread was slightly over 3 times. But it was delicious all the same. This bread includes ginger syrup, which is hard to find here in Spain. So I had to prepare it myself to be faithful to tradition… recipe follows. The ginger syrup gives the bread a subtly special flavor.
Suikerbrood or sûkerbôlle (adapted from Living on bread and water)
- 500g strong flour (I used spelt. The original recipe called for all-purpose flour, but I think this is heresy when you use baker’s yeast)
- 10g salt
- 1 tsp ground cinammon
- 3 tbsp ginger syrup
- Milk to be added to the syrup up to a volume of 200ml
- 15g fresh yeast (if you can only use 10g and retard the first fermentation in the fridge overnight, the bread will sure have more character)
- 75g melted unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- 75g sugar (the type of sugar the Dutch use for this can’t be found in Spain. See how it looks here. You can use sugar cubes instead, crushed with a rolling pin. This type of sugar melts during the baking and leaves a lot of sweet and gooey pockets in the bread… Though the original recipe calls for 150g sugar, I preferred to reduce it)
Ginger syrup (from the recipe for candied ginger by David Lebovitz)
- A couple of fresh ginger roots
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Peel the ginger and slice finely.
- Put everything in a pot and boil till the ginger is tender, or until the syrup scores 106ºC. I’m a primitive being and I didn’t measure anything though. You just need a minimum of 3 tbsp of the damned thing. And you can keep the candied ginger for your next Christmas confections.
Fine, now that you have your ginger syrup, proceed to preparing this utterly delicious and utterly Dutch bread:
- Pour the syrup into a measuring cup and add the milk till you get 200ml of liquid.
- Add the eggs.
- Melt the butter and add it too; mix well.
- Weigh the flour and crumble the yeast in it. Add the liquid ingredients and start kneading till you have a reasonable gluten development. My dough was a bit on the dry side, maybe that’s another reason why the crumb was on the dense side.
- Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and leave to double in bulk. Mine took less than one hour yesterday because of the heat in my kitchen. Simply amazing. I can’t imagine what could have happened had I added the original amount of yeast. I would have needed a machete to get into my kitchen.
- Preheat the oven to 170-180ºC.
- After the first proofing, tip the dough on the countertop, deflate it and shape it into a large rectangle by sliding your fingers underneath the dough and pulling. The rectangle needs to be as wide as the length of your loaf pan, so that the rolled dough fits into the mold. I don’t have photos of the process as it was almost night when I started and I don’t have the proper photography props. I admit donations though. And my baking inspiration doesn’t arrive when it’s called, I couldn’t tell her to come back the next day… no no no. My dough had a wonderful gluten development I don’t always get, because I could stretch it a lot without much effort. The heat also has something to do when the dough carries butter.
- When the dough is well stretched, scatter the sugar pieces and sprinkle the cinammon. Roll the dough carefully to make a cylinder, lift it and put it into the oiled and floured loaf pan. Cover with plastic film and let it at least double in volume.
- Bake it 40 minutes. Watch it every now and then to prevent it from browning too much on top. When done, unmold on a cooling rack. Let it cool.
If you like bread that is sugary and smells of cinammon, this is up your alley. Undescribable if you have it in a veranda with tons of butter… like the Dutch do… eet smakelijk.
And I’m sending this one to Wild Yeast, for the weekly YeastSpotting.