Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Pecan and cranberry goodness

Oh yes, more bread!

There can never be too much bread if you ask me, and bread experiments will probably take up rather a lot of space on this blog, mostly because since resolving to eat only homemade bread there has been rather a lot of baking going on. I'm still trying to work out the averages of how much bread we get through in a week, and thus how many loaves I am going to be making and how often, but to be honest I haven't actually been paying all that much attention, I just make more when the other stuff runs out - sometimes leaving it to prove whilst at a football match and frantically whacking it in the oven at eleven at night when the winning euphoria finally clears and the bread memory kicks in!

Annnnyway. Last night was another bread making one and as I finally had both cranberries and pecans in the cupboard I decided to have a proper crack at Richard Bertinet's pecan and cranberry bread (minus the orange zest, because of course there is inevitably always one ingredient lacking).

As you can see from the pictures this is a rather pretty bread, and tasty to match (at least that's what N assured me when he tucked into his toast this morning). It's a fortunate one because it works well as a breakfast choice (something the sundried tomato and walnut, although delicious, was less suited for) as well as a lunchbox one. This dual function is pretty vital as I like only having one loaf on the go at a time, and have to make sure N has something to eat before tacking his ride to work.

This bread works well because cranberries aren't too sweet, even when dried, and so they provide a great flavour to complement cheeses in sandwiches whilst being tasty enough on their own to make interesting toast. Add to that the slight crunch of the pecans and this bread is away. Although there is no orange in my loaf I think that this is actually better as two flavours in bread for a sandwich is enough to add flavour but not too much to detract from the filling.

Righty, that's enough bread praise for one day. If I don't stop now I'll be going on forever about the virtues of any and every bread! Plus this has just arrived:

Our weekly organic fruit and veg box from Abel and Cole, full of tasty fresh seasonal loveliness (and that sneaky extra box at the bottom is a tasty bottle of wine, hehe!). So I'm off to put the food away and contemplate what weird and wonderful dishes we can make with parsnips this week...

p.s. In case you're interested, here is the recipe for the bread, adapted from Richard Bertinet's "Dough: Contemporary bread making"

Pecan and Cranberry Bread. (one large, two small, loaves)

10g yeast
200g Strong white flour
300g Wholemeal flour
10g Salt
350g Water (he says weighing is more accurate, and he's right)
100g Dried cranberries
100g slightly crushed pecans (I shelled my own and to be honest they were pretty crushed already once I got finished with the nut-cracker! If you're using ready-shelled just break then into thirds.)

Pre-heat oven to 250 C and place your baking stone (or flat baking tray for us cheap-skate plebs) in the middle.

Put the yeast in the bowl and then add the flour and mix thoroughly with your hands. Then add the salt, mix again, then the water. Mix the whole lot with your hands until it just starts to stick together, then add the cranberries and pecans. As it begins to form a dough put onto a non-floured surface and work into a dough making sure the cranberries and pecans are worked evenly into the dough.

Place in a floured bowl and cover with a tea towel to rest for 1 hour.

Remove from the bowl onto a floured surface and separate in half if you're making two loaves. Shape in to a ball (or two) by tucking the dough into itself underneath until a smallish smooth ball is formed. Leave to rest for another five minutes. Place into a proving basket and leave to prove for an hour (yeah, who has these on had in their kitchen!? - line a bowl with a tea towel and flour generously. You can just keep the floured tea towel after use, with the flour still on it, for any future proving. As Bertinet suggests I have four tea towels dedicated to bread making now, two for "proving baskets," two for covering. Apparently they benefit from re-use (without washing) because they hold the yeastiness of the doughs which help the proving of future loaves).

Turn the oven down to 220 C, mist with a water spray and place the loaf, or loaves on the baking stone. Bake for the first five minutes at 220 C, then turn down to 200 C and bake for a further 15-20 mins for the small loaves, or 30-35 mins for a large loaf. Remove and tap to make sure its hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Then eat, lots of it. Mmm, bread!

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