Monday, July 6, 2015

Change of Pace - Cranberry (Raisin) Pecan Bread

Hello Everyone!
Yes, it has been a long time, a year in fact, but I am returning to Breadmantalking, after a much needed break. The hectic, self-imposed schedule I set for myself, no doubt is to blame and so this time around I plan to do things a little differently. Occasional posts, instead of weekly for starters. And more variety. By that I mean the focus will be on baking but not necessarily bread. Maybe some bread 'cousins' like muffins, and biscuits and scones. I am hopeful the new focus will make Breadmantalking even more rewarding than it was before.

In that vein... I bring you a special bread that has variations but always comes back to this. Dried fruit and roasted (toasted) nuts chopped coarsely incorporated in a soft not-overly sweet dough. It is perfect for breakfast or brunch. And goes nicely in the evening with a green salad. This recipe is adapted from one I found online at Allrecipes, which if you don't know it, you should. A great recipe site with literally thousands of recipes, tips, videos etc. It's all there, and these guys really know their stuff. Be sure to check it out.

Here's What You'll Need:

3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or other nuts - walnuts, filberts or hazelnuts work just as well)
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit - I was out of cranberries so I used raisins. Dates or apricots would work too.)
3 cups AP flour
1 cup water
3/4 cup sourdough starter*
1/2 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. melted butter (or non-trans margarine)

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Toast the nuts in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Be careful to remove the pan when you begin to smell the aroma because of the oil in the nuts they will burn quickly and become bitter.

2.Cover the cranberries or other dried fruit with warm water and let stand to rehydrate while you prepare the dough.

3. Mix the flour with the water, mix to form a rough dough with ALL the flour incorporated, then cover and let stand to rest for about 30 minutes.

4. Mix in the starter and the salt, then knead vigorously until the dough is smooth, only slightly tacky, and elastic. This will be about 5 minutes in a mixer or about 10 minutes by hand.

5. Drain and dry the dried fruit then knead it into the dough along with the nuts. Finally place the finished dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover. Let the dough rise until doubled. If you are using a true starter, this can take 4 to 6 hours. If using a poolish*, it will be less, say around 2 hours.

6. Without deflating the dough, shape it into a ball, or an oval and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Cover and let it rise again until doubled, about 1 more hour.

7. About 20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375 F (about 190 C).

8. Slash the loaf just before placing it in the oven. If you want a chewier crust then you can add steam to the oven by placing an aluminum tray on the floor of the oven with a cup or so of boiling water in it while it bakes. Bake for about 35-40 minutes.

9. Cook completely on a rack.

*Sourdough starter - many bakers swear by sourdough and use nothing else for rising bread dough. While the process of making and maintaining sourdough starter is not too difficult, it DOES require your attention and self-discipline. Otherwise, how to say this gently, the sourdough simply dies. In order to achieve very similar results, both French and Italian bakers over the yeayrs have developed techniques that replicate the taste without the hassle. The French 'solution', called poolish, is quite simple. Make a solution of equal parts water and flour and add only a pinch of instant yeast. It will be very liquid (100% hydration, after all). Let the mixture stand at room temperature, covered, over night or at least for 5 or 6 hours. It will be very bubbly and have a tangy aroma. Mix this into your dough, taking into account the amount of water in the poolish. The rise will still be slower than using only yeast, but the taste will be virtually the same as 'pure' sourdough, without the hassle.

For this recipe I mixed 3/8 cup flour with 3/8 cup water and 1/2 tsp. of instant yeast. The next morning it was good to go. In the winter, it is best to let it sit 24 hours if your house is cooler.