I believe that every food that I cook and bake are all work in progress (some more than others). This Cramique is definitely one of them. Cramique is a traditional Belgian bread (most of the time eaten at breakfast, but great for afternoon tea/coffee time too). I first ate my cramique from the Whole Foods Market (my favorite organic market). Once in a while from their bakery, they have special bread of the day, and we came upon cramique. I really liked it (in fact my family liked it), although it was rather expensive.
There aren’t many cramique recipes out there (at least on the American side), there are about 3 similar recipes floating around the web (ok, maybe the 4th recipe, but it’s in French; and when it comes to recipes, I need it to be as precise as possible, especially when I’m trying out new recipes). Oh yes, there were some which used fresh yeast, and it’s really difficult to get fresh yeast in America (plus the measurement is different between fresh yeast and dry yeast) so I didn’t want to spend too much time converting the measurements and taking risk.
I tried the first recipe, which came from Nick Malgieri’s bread book. The recipe looked really promising, but the end result was rather disappointing. The bread didn’t rise properly and it just didn’t look right (although the texture was that of cramique, and it tasted good).
Then I came upon this recipe, where the recipe came from the author’s Belgian grandmother. The recipe itself was a bit unclear (I’m sure very clear to the one who wrote it). I cut this recipe in to half, adjusted few steps, and combined it with Nick Malgieri’s recipe. I think it came out pretty well.
Yields 2 loaves:
5 cups flour (you can use all-purpose, but I used bread flour)
2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 cup warm milk (110F)
1 stick butter (8 Tablespoons), very soft
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg (for egg wash)
1 cup dark raisins (optional)
Combine 1 teaspoon sugar (from 1/4 cup sugar), yeast and pour in the warm milk. Let it sit for few minutes until yeast becomes spongy (if you’re using a Stand Mixer, you can do this process in the stand mixer bowl).
Meanwhile, combine flour and salt.
In the yeast mixture, add sugar and egg, and whisk it well enough. Add about 4 cups of the flour mixture and mix it well. Add in the softened butter and add the remaining 1 cup flour and mix and knead for about 10 minutes.
If you’re using raisins, add them towards the end of kneading and blend them in very well. This cramique dough is on a denser side, so you will find raisins not blending too well initially, but don’t worry, just knead them in.
Transfer the dough to a well oiled/buttered large bowl and turn the dough around so that it’s coated with oil/butter. Cover with wax paper and wrap clean kitchen towel around the surface of the bowl. Let the bowl sit in a warm place for an hour (or until the dough doubles in size).
Divide the dough into half and make a round shape by folding the sides of the dough underneath the dough (if you are using regular bread loaf pans, make these into rectangles). Place them in appropriate baking pans and let it rest for another hour until the dough doubles in size again.
Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake in a preheated 400F oven for about 30 minutes (or deep golden color). Let it cool on the rack.
My opinion: I am very very very happy with the taste!! The taste is exactly how I remember from the first Cramique encounter. I will have to work on the “looks” department, but as of now, I’m very satisfied. It’s difficult to describe how cramique taste like, I guess the best I can do is say that “it’s a cross between a brioche and a sweet bun, texture and taste”. It has both of these qualities. We toasted these for breakfast this morning. I ate mine with just butter, but kids had theirs with butter and marmalade. It was a very happy breakfast indeed.
Revised on November 8, 2011:
I baked another 2 loaves today. Instead of lining the pan with the parchment paper, I just lightly greased the pan and let the dough rise.
Baked it as stated from the above recipe. I think this came out much nicer than the first 2 ones!!