Monday, August 22, 2011

Cranberry Walnut Bread

There is nothing more satisfying than a warm loaf of freshly baked bread; when you reach across the table for the bread basket at a restaurant and simultaneously feel and smell the warm curls of air wafting up towards your fingers.. However, for me the thought of baking bread immediately stirs up a sense of panic and a vivid image of myself standing in the kitchen covered in flour with clumps of dough sticking to my hair. Isn't it hard? doesn't it take hours? what if I don't own a breadmaker? I have the answers for you, and you can do it!

Start your bread baking with the mentality that you are about to embark on a journey with a tremendous gustatory (and olfactory) result, and do it with others!! My sister and I baked the no-breadmaker required bread together, and as she walked me through the different steps I realized that simple explanations for each aspect of the bread baking made way for an extremely easy process to understand and execute. Yes, it takes a while, but the prep time is light compared to the total required time and thoroughly enjoyable. We baked a whole wheat Cranberry Walnut Bread loaf that came out simply amazing. Feel free to top with butter, jam, or cottage-cheese, but this sweet and nutty loaf is just as irresistible on its own.
Cranberry Walnut Bread (The original recipe is made for a Cuisinart; which is optional. I think it makes the instructions complicated, so I've tried to simplify as much as possible below and provide pictures to guide. We also altered the ratio of whole wheat flour to bread flour to incorporate more whole grains, but which I think prevented the bread from rising as much as it was supposed to.)

Yield: one round loaf (about 12 servings) Total time: 3 1/2- 4 hours. Active time: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients
1 and 1/3 cup warm (105°F) water
2¼ tablespoons maple syrup
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1¾ cups bread flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour 1 1/4 cups bread flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour 2 cups whole wheat flour
1½ tablespoons vegetable or walnut oil
1¾ teaspoons sea or kosher salt
¾ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries

Directions
1. Place warm water (same temperature as your wrist, 105 degrees Fahrenheit if you have a thermometer) maple syrup, and yeast in a large bowl. Stir and let stand for 5-10 minutes.  Wait until mixture bubbles and is foamy: this means the yeast is alive and active.
2.  Add both flours, oil, and salt to the bowl. Mix until smooth and knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking. (To knead dough, push down into the dough with the heels of your hands, fold, rotate, repeat. For detailed instructions, click here)
knead dough with the heels of your hands
3. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl (can use the same bowl as in step 1, just wash it first) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, covered, until dough has doubled in size in a warm, draft-free place.
risen dough
4. Prepare a pizza stone or cookie sheet with a sprinkle of oil followed by a light coat of cornmeal or flour.  Punch the dough down to deflate and form into a ball, flattening the dough into a 9-inch round, like a very large cookie.  Place the flattened round onto the prepared pizza stone/cookie sheet.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled – about 60 to 70 minutes. Ten minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F.* see note below



7. Remove saran wrap, and sprinkle the top of the risen loaf with flour.  Using a serrated knife cut a cross in the top of the loaf, cutting about ¼-inch into the loaf. Place the bread in the hot oven and bake for 15 minutes.
8. Lower the heat to 375°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes – until the bread is a rich brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the oven off, slide the bread directly onto the oven rack and let stand in the closed, hot oven for 5 minutes to crisp the bottom of the loaf. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Bread slices best when allowed to cool completely before cutting.
*Note: if you want your loaf to come out on the crusty side, the oven must be steamy. (Professional ovens have steam-injectors.) To achieve this, place a pan filled with half an inch of water on the bottom shelf of the oven while you preheat it. After 10 minutes of baking, remove the pan. This works because the humidity from the steam prevents the crust from forming immediately, so when you remove it the crust forms more thickly.



2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I got a sudden craving for whole wheat cranberry walnut bread. *Really* don't know where that came from! I'll be making this next week.

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