Sunday, February 3, 2013

Apple Cranberry Bread

Apple Cranberry Bread
Here’s the next recipe in my series Baking Outside My Comfort Zone, where I’m still figuring out and learning to love yeast breads. 
I had a hard time with this recipe. I really did. After my success with the Good Old American White Rolls, I was beginning to think that my fear of yeast breads was completely unfounded and maybe I got a little over confident. Nothing like a little baking fail (or two or three) to bring you back to reality.
How does the saying go? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And so I did, with a few adjustments and a little humility, and I was so happy when I pulled this little beautiful loaf of apple cranberry bread out of the oven.
Apple Cranberry Bread
The biggest thing I learned with this bread is that as important as following a recipe is, it’s even more important to understand the whole process of bread making and when you need to adapt. For example, sometimes dough doesn’t need as much flour as it calls for, and sometimes it needs more. I finally remembered this from my culinary school days and instead of just blindly dumping all the flour in, I added a little at a time and watched what happened and how the dough reacted before deciding to add more.
Dough typically should be sticky, but not so sticky that it and comes off on your hands when handled. I ended up only using just over 2 cups of the prescribed 3.
Apple Cranberry Bread
I think I’ve already mentioned how I’m a little prematurely sugared out this holiday season. This loaf of bread is the perfect solution for bakaholics like me. It’s not dessert but you still get a chance to turn on the oven and get dusted in flour baking something seasonal and satisfying.
Apple Cranberry Bread

Why punch the dough?

Is it to work out all that aggression built up from so many bread failures? Not exactly. Punching down the dough releases any gas bubbles that have formed during rising, and also redistributes the yeast, sugar, and moisture within the dough.
To “punch” the dough properly, simply firmly, but gently push your fist into the center of the dough. Then knead the dough a few times and reform the dough into a ball. Shape dough as desired and let rise again (proof) before baking.
More baking tips can be found on Red Star Yeast’s online Lessons in Yeast and Baking.
Apple Cranberry Bread

Apple Cranberry Bread
Yield: One 9x5 inch loaf
A lightly spiced yeast bread filled with apples, cranberries, and pecans.
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packaged) active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup (210 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (1 medium,125 grams) apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup (110 grams) cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans, chopped
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and butter and heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes (to about 120-130 degrees F).
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, all spice, and nutmeg. Add the water and butter mixture, followed by the egg and mix until combined. Add enough of the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough.
  3. Knead with the dough hook or by hand until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes by mixer (it will take longer by hand). Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled and an indentation remains after inserting your finger into the dough.
  4. Punch down the dough and knead by hand a few times. Pat or roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 7x14 inches. Scatter the diced apples, cranberries and pecans over the dough. Starting with the short end, tightly roll the dough up. Pinch the edges and ends together and place in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  5. Place the loaf in a warm place and let rise again until an indent remains when you lightly press the dough with your finger. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

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