wine-soaked longan boule

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guess who almost overbrowned the top… but at least the swirly design is nice

If you’ve ever seen one of my posts and thought that I was way out of my depth trying to recreate some master’s creation – well, I’ve reached new heights in my overestimation of self in very arrogantly tackling what is THE most popular, sought after, award-winning king of loaves in the country (and most expensive, RIP my savings).

About 5 years back, master baker Wu Pao Chun made waves, no, tsumanis with this exact bread. People including ourselves would drive intercity, line up for hours outside his ‘Pasadena’ bakery just for half a loaf (the cost being triple~quadruple of more common European style bread, most couldn’t afford the whole deal). You may ask if it truly lives up to the hype, in my 19 years’ experience of bread fetishising, I’ve never tasted anything so sophisticated, layered, and dare I say, sexy. Although it is definitely more adult, the sweetness coming from the wine and dried longan meat, with the addition of slightly bitter walnuts providing crunch. Ever since we last bought the bread on one of our trips to Kaohsiung, I’ve been craving it again. So I had to find a solution that isn’t driving all the way to a different city every time the craving resurfaces.

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Almost impossibly, THE recipe has been publicised, and not locked up in an underground safe somewhere. Shame on you, Mr Krabs. As expected, it includes names of ingredients I’ve never heard of; but after a little research I modified it to be more home baker-friendly. And honestly, if quality ingredients are used, particularly the wine and longan, the results come pretty darn close to the real thing. I baked these at 10pm and was still smelling the smoky sweet fragrance of the dried longan hours later.

 

Wine soaked longan boule (makes one pretty ginormous bread)
(adapted from Wu Pao Chun)

For the biga:
175g bread flour
38g sourdough starter (I made mine using raisins)
50g red wine
55g lukewarm water
4g instant dried yeast

For the main dough:
all of the biga
200g bread flour
5g wheat germ (can get away without it)
2g instant dried yeast
134g lukewarm water
4g molasses
4g salt
44g walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
87g dried longan
19g red wine

To prepare the biga, first dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and leave for a few minutes to foam up. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed for 4 minutes so it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover and proof at room temperature of about 20°C for 12~20hrs until the interior full of air holes and tripled in size (if the weather’s warm, you can consider leaving it at room temp. for a few hours then transferring to the fridge for 24hrs).

Meanwhile soak the dried longan in the 19g of red wine. By the time the starter dough has done proofing there shouldn’t be any liquid left.

Once the biga’s ready, dissolve both the yeast and molasses in the lukewarm water and wait for it to activate. Then, add all the ingredients for the main dough except the nuts and longan. Mix on low speed for about 5~6 minutes until dough can be stretched thin enough to be translucent. Add walnuts and soaked longan, mix on low for a minute. Cover and proof for an hour upwards till doubled in size.

Form the dough into one smooth ball, trying to bury any exposed longan as it’ll dry out and become bitter if not covered by dough. Cover and proof again for 60 minutes or longer until twice the size. If you’d like, sprinkle the top with a thin layer of flour and score as desired.

10 minutes before the dough is done proofing, preheat the oven to 220°C fan forced. Prepare a tray with some small rocks and half fill it with boiling water to create steam. This helps form a crusty exterior on the bread, but you could just spray the oven a few times with water after you put the dough in. Once the dough is in, lower the temperature to 200°C and bake for 35~40 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before slicing.

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