Monday, October 27, 2014

Cranberry Walnut Bread - From The Bread Bible

Have been visiting the city library quite often these days, especially for little Adu who loves books and also the time he gets to spend at the baby section there, with other kids and truck loads of books. And then after that I get drifted towards the cookery section and get carried away by the wonderful cook and bake books there. Just can't resist myself from picking up a couple of them. And then I come home and sit with the books, adoring and admiring the recipes, the pictures, the author for all the hard work and dream about making a few of them, and note a few... And occasionally I do attempt to make one or two too, after all the drooling! And a couple of times, it so happened that I returned the books without noting the recipes that I tried from them and liked. And return back to the library again, looking for the same book, so as to note down at least the one I tried!

So this time, when I came home with the humongous book 'The Bread Bible' by Rose Levy Beranbaum, I was determined to make a few of them, and to note them down before returning! And so I tried out this recipe, as I was also looking for a recipe to make use of the dried cranberries that I had got and the pack of walnuts lying in the kitchen. The recipe is originally a Raisin Pecan bread, to which the author suggests this variation of cranberries and walnuts.

The bread turned out very nice, with a beautiful texture. The process however was a bit more lengthy than the ones I usually prefer, with the sponge and its resting time taking up extra hours, but then its not a complicated process anyway. Just needs more time, and the end result was a really beautiful loaf. I've simplified it by using a loaf pan, as opposed to shaping a free form loaf and baking on a sheet.

Here's the recipe, shortened from the version in the book...

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Preparation time: 10-15 min
Dough starter: min 1 ½ hrs, max 24 hrs
Minimum Rising time: abt 3 ½ hours
Baking time: 45 – 55 min
Source: Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'The Bread Bible'

For the Soaked Cranberries
Dried Cranberries – 1 cup
Hot water – 1/3 cup

For the Sponge / Dough Starter
Bread Flour - 1 cup
Instant Yeast – ½ tsp
Water at Room temperature - 1 cup (Incl cranberry soaking water)
Honey / Light Corn syrup – 1 Tbsp

For the flour mixture:
Bread flour – 1 ¼ cup
Whole wheat flour – 1/3 cup
Instant Yeast – ¾ tsp
Walnuts – 2 cups, divided use
Salt – 1 ¼ tsp
Vegetable oil - 1 Tbsp

  • Soak the Cranberries in the hot water for about 30 min, until soft and plump
  • Drain them and reserve the water in a 1 cup measuring jar
  • Add more water to make this 1 cup water to use in the sponge below
  • Prepare walnuts: Toast the walnuts either on stovetop or in the over at 170deg C for about 7 minutes. Peel off the skin with a clean kitchen towel as much as possible
  • Finely grind ½ cup of this along with whole wheat flour. Chop the other 1 ½ cups into fine pieces and keep aside.
  • Make the Sponge: In a large bowl or mixer bowl, place the ingredients for the starter and whisk for about 2 min until very smooth.
  • Scrape down the sides, cover with a wrap and set aside while making the flour mixture
  • Make the flour mixture: Mix together all the ingredients except the chopped walnuts, oil, salt and a ¼ cup of flour. Spoon the mixture over the sponge lightly and cover tightly and let sit for 1 to 4 hours. The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture.
  • Mix the dough: Add the salt and oil, and mix with a wooden spoon or with hands to bring the dough together. Knead for 5 minutes adding the reserved flour to prevent sticking.
  • Keep covered for about 20 minutes and again knead the dough for 5 minutes till very smooth and elastic.
  • Spread the dough into a rectangle and add the walnuts and soaked cranberries over it and roll it and mix it in to evenly distribute.
  • Let the dough rise until it is double in volume for about 1 ½ hours, placing it in an oiled bowl, covered with a cling wrap.
  • Shape the dough into a 11” long loaf on a floured counter. I simply shaped it into a greased loaf pan and spread it to fill it. Let the dough rise till double again, for about an hour
  • Preheat oven to 220 deg C (400 F) and place a cast iron skillet or a sheet pan in the lowest shelf for water.
  • Bake the bread: Slash the bread with a sharp knife ¼ to ½ inch deep parallel slashes on the top of the dough. Mist the dough with a little water and quickly place it on the oven.
  • Toss ½ cup ice cubes into the tray at the bottom shelf of the oven and close the oven door quickly.
  • Bake for 5 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 180 deg C (375 F) and continue baking for 40 – 50 min until the top is golden, and a skewer inserted comes out clean or the bread internal temperature reads 190 F (Mine was done in 45 min)
  • Cool the bread on a wire rack for about 2 hours before slicing it with a serrated knife into slices
  • This is a variation of the Raisin Pecan bread that Rose suggests in the book
  • I added a mixture of cranberries and raisins.
  • I reduced the cranberries and walnuts by about half a cup thinking it was to much, but then later realised the amounts given by the author were perfect. Mine seemed a little too less in the bread