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I tried to make an Azerbaijani-style meat loaf (apparently also known as blood bread) as shown in a YouTube video (turning on CC on the video will give you ingredients, but not quantities or cooking/resting times). Here’s how I reverse-engineered the recipe (scaled down for some 2 servings):

  • 250 g beef, ground
  • 250 g mutton, ground
  • 125 g lamb tail fat, cut into 5–10 mm cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • Garlic powder, ground black pepper, dried mint, cumin, paprika, salt
  • Breadcrumbs (6 bread ends, over a week old and completely dry, ground up)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250 ml milk (instead of cream and water as I didn’t have cream)
  • 50 ml sunflower seed oil (didn’t have corn oil)

I made the kind with the cheese and egg topping shown in the video. I made one single pan, with two tomato quarters, some 70 g cheese, an egg and 80 ml sour cream for the topping. I baked everything at 200°C for an hour, using a stainless steel pan.

I already noticed the dough was quite runny and did not hold shape as well as in the video when making the pit for the topping. When comparing my results to the video, the blood bread in the video seems to have gotten more thermal energy than mine – the meat on mine hardly browned (though the egg mixture did). Most importantly, mine was drowning in liquid (which looked like a mixture of water, fat and coagulated proteins). Also, the meat in my recipe looked quite crumbly (basically like cooked ground meat) whereas the original has formed a dough that solidifies when cooked.

What has gone wrong?

  • Too little heat? (If so, what would be a good temperature?)
  • Baking time too short? (If so, what time would have been required?)
  • Too much liquid? (If so, what amount of cream and water would I use for 500 g meat?)
  • Not enough breadcrumbs? (What ratio is recommended?)
  • Do different characteristics of milk vs. a roughly 1:1 mixture of cream and water have an impact on moisture retention? (Which?)
  • Did I get some of the ingredient ratios (eyeballed from the recipe) wrong?
  • Something else?
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3 Answers 3

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250ml of milk, or any liquid such as water or stock sounds like a lot to me compared to the other ingredients. The original recipe uses 6 bread ends worth of crumbs, depending on the size of the bread ends that may be quite a lot as well.

What is most likely happening with your version is the bread crumbs are not effective enough, this is probably because your bread ends are not dried out. The easy way to fix this is to spread the crumbs out on a baking tray and bake them for 10 minutes or so, until they turn golden. Alternatively you can use pre-made store bought breadcrumbs. It's also possible traditional bread ends from the area are large, in which case the ones you are using may not be as big so you are using less crumbs than the recipe intended.

There are two ways to go about this:

  1. Ration the milk: add only enough milk to get the consistency you want with the breadcrumbs you have added
  2. Adjust with breadcrumbs: add all the milk at once and keep adding breadcrumbs until you get the consistency you are after

Either recipe will get you a consistency that is stiff enough to be a meatloaf, the difference will be in the breadiness to meatiness of the result. When I make a meatloaf I'm looking to add minimal breadcrumbs to make it as meaty as possible as that's what I grew up with so I'd use option 1, however the name blood-bread makes me think that breadiness is what you are aiming for, in which case option 2 may be better. I'd have some store bought breadcrumbs on hand in addition to bread ends if you go that way, just so you don't run out.

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    The bread ends were several weeks old and dry enough that they would split if I tried to cut them, so I can rule that part out (I have edited that in the question). The bread crumbs would have had the water content of store-bought ones.
    – user149408
    Nov 21, 2022 at 19:56
  • Golden bread crumbs may have their starch modified to the point of being less effective. I don't see how starting with drier crumbs will help, as the crumbs are wetted anyways and will hold the same amount of water in the end after either (1) expelling any extra or (2) retaining a "perfect" amount of added water.
    – Confused
    Nov 27, 2022 at 7:29
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I think you should address your issues separately.

lack of cohesion (before and after cooking)

The most important factor for this is sufficient rest. It is sometimes possible to get a good mass with only 30 minutes of rest, but since you are having problems, I would suggest to try with 2-4 hours of resting the kneaded mass in the fridge, before shaping and baking.

The ratios can also be improved.

  • The breadcrumbs sound a lot for so little meat. Use fewer breadcrumbs, and make sure they are properly dried, not just bread that was purchased yesterday. If necessary, dry them out to zwieback before grinding.
  • Add one or two more eggs
  • reduce the oil, 50 ml is too much for only 500 g meat.
  • The milk doesn't sound right. You shouldn't be using any preset amount of liquid anyway. Do it like the guy in the video - first, add some cream for taste, maybe 20-30 ml. After everything is kneaded, check your consistency, and only add water or milk if it is needed. You can also skip the cream altogether.

liquid seeping out

This is indeed related to the energy transfer in your food, as you mentioned.

The meal in the video is prepared in a wood-fired stone oven. You cannot create the optimal conditions in a home electric oven, but you can at least try to get as close as possible and see if this is enough to take care care of the "stewed instead of roasted" problem.

  • For the temperature, go as high up as your oven goes. You cannot have it too hot (or rather, "too hot" will be somewhere above 500 C).
  • Use a pizza stone. Not a thin one from the discounter, use something that weighs at least 3-4 kg, more is better.
  • preheat the oven with the stone inside for 2-3 hours. Less is probably also sufficient, but since you don't know for sure if the process will work properly, start with two or three hours to be on the safe side. If it works well, you can start gradually reducing it for future batches, until you find a preheating duration that is good enough, probably somewhere in the 45-60 min range.
  • do not make a single portion. Instead, make it in smaller portions than in the video. Tartalette molds around 10 cm may be a good choice here. Stay with metal, it will give you quicker roasting than ceramic dishes.
  • See if you can source better quality meat. The most important factor here would be to use non-plumped meat, if you can find it, but finding meat from free-range animals or longer-raised animals will also help. Specialty butchers may have their best meat as whole cuts, but you can ask them to grind it for you.

If you make all of the above changes and find that your liquid still doesn't cook off, then you won't be able to make it as shown in your home oven. Then you can switch to making a normal log-shaped meatloaf in a pan wide enough for the seeping liquid to flow away from it and allow it to roast. In this case, you can bake your egg-and-cheese mixture separately, possibly as a quiche, and serve together with the meatloaf.

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  • I wasn’t sure to what extent the two issues are related, so I posted the full picture. The breadcrumbs were dry (similar to store-bought ones), and I would eyeball the ratio to be similar to what the guy in the video used. The amount of liquid, rest time and temperature sound like things I might want to tackle next time.
    – user149408
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:01
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    as for the rest time, if I compare the state of the fire at ~4:00 vs. 11:40 in the video, I would estimate some 2 hours to have elapsed in between. Subtract half an hour for the preparation, and the mass would have rested for some 1.5 hours.
    – user149408
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:17
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    @user149408 Don't go by the video. It is heavily staged and edited, and probably created from multiple takes. Just go by what makes sense for a meatloaf recipe, regardless of what the video presents. 2-4 hours is a good timespan to get a cohesive meatloaf mass, people do less when they're pressed for time, and more (e.g. overnight) when they need to separate prepping and cooking for logistic reasons. But less than 2 hours might not be enough when the recipe is problematic, and keeping it more than 4 hours won't improve the result. This timing valid for any meatloaf or frikadellen recipe.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:47
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Kenji Lopez at SeriousEats has a good discussion on the science.

Gelatin from collagen breakdown will hold moisture, as do bread crumbs. Looks like you may be using too much bread and liquid (compared to Kenji) – that needs to be adjusted and you can add powdered gelatin to help out: Kenji uses 14 g gelatin for ~900 g meat and 180 mL liquid.

The way you process your ingredients will have an effect too (are you cooking water out of them, coarse ingredients will likely result in your desired structure). Too much finely-processed non-meat ingredients may prevent the structure you're looking for by preventing the meat from closely interacting or improve the structure with all the fiber-thickening.

Also, you're going to have some liquid come out no matter what (the Youtuber's oven conceals this because it's too hot for water to collect). Once the structure sets, get rid of the liquid / open-up to allow for browning reactions (Kenji uses a nice trick for this). As others have said, a good resting is critical, especially for the gelatin.

The final temperature achieved may also influence your structure: higher temperatures probably being worse for the structure you desire as the meat proteins inevitably shrink more with higher temps (155F is good; or 145F if you blanch meat surface and grind at home).

Milk/cream bring only moisture and fat, they don't have much power at retention like gelatin does. Fine-processing of the bread crumbs may improve both moisture retention and structure (make a panade).

More working of a meat&fat mixture will start moving you into the sausage / emulsion-like structure, which you may desire (but it can be less tender).

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    No idea who downvoted this, as you are making some good points. The amount of liquid seems to be an issue (which others have pointed out as well). Gelatin may be a point (though the original recipe does not use any), and so is working of the mixture (the original does have a sausage-like texture, somewhat similar to frankfurters or Bavarian Leberkas). In the latter case, you should be careful not to let the mixture get too warm (no more than 15°C), which may be helped by the fact that the original got prepared outdoors in winter.
    – user149408
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:07
  • Gelatin sounds like a great idea. It would give the loaf a nice texture when it cooled too.
    – Kingsley
    Nov 21, 2022 at 22:54

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