Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cherry Walnut Whole Grain Celebration Bread

I have well and truly reached a milestone in the BBA Challenge. Not only is Cranberry {Cherry} Walnut {Whole Grain} Celebration Bread the last in a rather lengthy run of sweetened enriched breads in The Bread Baker's Apprentice book, it's also the final bread in the "C" section of the book. I don't know which milestone has me grinning wider. But what is the happiest thing of all is that this bread is really delicious. Despite the fact that I was totally unmotivated to bake this one (I mean, I've baked tons of different celebration-type loaves this year) one taste of this bread changed my attitude. In fact, even though I fully intended to give most of it away, we toasted up and enjoyed every last slice ourselves.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I knew that we would enjoy this bread more if it had a bit of whole grain flour in it. I routinely add rye flour, oat flour and whole wheat flour to my toasting loaves, and love it there, so I added a bit of each flour to this dough. To compensate for the reduced amount of gluten in those flours I used some high gluten flour too.

- Peter Reinhart gives a choice of liquids to use in the recipe. I chose the buttermilk and the lemon juice options - I reduced the quantity of lemon juice because I didn't want the bread to be too citrus-y.

- I substituted dried cherries for the cranberries, and reduced the quantity from 9 to 6 ounces. I toasted my walnuts and added another half ounce or so to the 3 ounces in the recipe

- Although the bread in the book was baked as a double braid loaf on a baking sheet, it can also be baked in loaf pans. I prepared two 8.5" x 4.5" pans (so I could give at least one loaf away), braided the dough, and placed it in the pans, for a braided pan loaf. The dough didn't fill the pans very full and I almost used smaller pans but these were already greased and I was too lazy to wash them and grease smaller pans. Sure enough, they ended up being small loaves. I'm guessing that all of the dough would have fit nicely into a 9" x 5" pan.

the verdict:

This bread was good sliced while still warm and really delicious toasted with butter. I love the nuttiness from the whole grain flour and the toasted nuts. The amount of cherries was perfect for us, so I'm glad I made the adjustments that I did.
I asked my husband how this bread compares to the cinnamon raisin bread, and he commented, "it's even better - hard to believe!"

I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly compilation of all yeasty goodness on blogs throughout the bread-baking world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

World Bread Day: Simple Milk Loaf

Today is World Bread Day, and I'm excited to celebrate it on my bread blog! On this day last year, 246 bread bakers around the globe came together over bread. Click here to see the roundup of the diverse and fabulous breads that they baked and shared with the world. I have no doubt that this year there will be even more breads represented.
world bread day 2009 - yes we bake.(last day of sumbission october 17)

At this time last year I wasn't aware of World Bread Day, and had never worked with yeast. The very idea of it scared me! All that changed last November when I baked a Kugelhopf for the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie, and I was bitten hard by the bread bug. Christmas saw me stocking up on a few bread-y supplies and in January 2009 my yeast baking began in earnest. The rest, as they say, is history. (You can find my baby steps and early loaves on my other food blog, The Dogs Eat the Crumbs - click here to see the posts in my "Adventures in Yeast" series.)

My bread for World Bread Day is the Simple Milk Loaf. This is a recipe from the creative and generous UK baker Dan Lepard. One of my Christmas presents was Dan's book The Art of Handmade Bread, published in the UK as The Handmade Loaf. It is a volume of "contemporary European recipes for the home baker" and contains a wide array of breads made from every type of grain, many employing sourdough starters. This was heady stuff for a novice baker, but my husband leafed through and stopped right at p. 46: "This Simple Milk Loaf looks great. Why don't you make it?" And so I did. It's a perfectly accessible recipe, with no obscure ingredients or tricky techniques. The resulting loaf was the most delicious farmhouse white bread I've ever tasted. Toasted, with butter, it was the closest I'll come to tasting heaven on earth.

In the past 6 months I've baked this bread countless times, nearly always in a double batch, and always with a healthy dose of whole grain flours. I give at least one loaf of every batch away, and it never fails to receive rave reviews. I've shared the recipe with a couple dozen people, most of whom love it as I do.

The bread can be made with one bowl, one small ramekin, one measuring spoon and a scale. With a 4 hour time period and minimal hands-on work you can produce one of the most versatile and tasty loaves you'll ever eat, right in your very own oven.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- [edit: the original recipe links that I posted are now broken. Please see the recipe at the end of this post, below]

- Here is the easiest way to prepare the dough:
1. Melt the butter. I do that in a ramekin in the microwave.

2. Place a bowl on the digital scale and weigh out the milk and the maple syrup, then warm them slightly in the microwave. Stir in the fresh yeast.

3. Place the bowl back onto the scale and weigh the dry ingredients directly on top of the wet ones. For readers in the US, "strong" flour is the same as bread flour. The standard mix I've come to use is 60% bread flour, and 40% a mixture of oat flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour. It still comes off as a nearly-white bread, and I like the extra nutty flavor from the whole grains.

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with your fingers - the book says to "squidge" it, which is exactly what you're doing. This part will bring you back to your childhood, making mudpies in the backyard. Pour the warm melted butter and squidge some more. This will actually un-stick much of the dough from your fingers.

5. Dan's kneading method is simple, unusual, and very effective - you will knead the dough on an oiled counter for 10 seconds every 10 minutes, for three rounds. The first time, leave the dough on the counter while you wash and dry the bowl. This gives the dough some helpful rest time, Dan says, but if you're in a hurry, you can get a second, clean, bowl out for the kneaded dough. The dough is so supple and delicious to feel, that it's hard to stop kneading after 10 seconds. Nothing bad will happen if you end up giving it an extra knead or 10.

6. The bread rises in the pan very vigorously, and usually gives a good spring in the oven to boot. I've baked it in an 8.5" x 4.5" pan, and a 9" x 5" pan, and in a lot of other unusual sizes. A single batch always yields 900 grams of dough, so that helps in dividing the dough to shape the balls. I've settled on baking double batches in 4 smallish pans, so each ball ends up being 225 grams. It only takes a few minutes to portion the dough, form the balls and drop them into their waiting oiled and floured pans.
the verdict:

This bread is a wonderful way to get your hands into bread-making. It doesn't give sore arms, 30 seconds of kneading is hardly strenuous, but does produce a lovely loaf to eat or to share.

Happy World Bread Day!

I'm also sending this Milk Loaf to Yeastspotting, a weekly compendium of all things yeasty.

[edit to add recipe, since the links I had are both broken, and further edited on 4/24/11 to add volume measurements:]

Simple Milk Loaf


1½ tsp fresh yeast, crumbled [or 1/2 tsp instant yeast, added with dry ingredients]
350g/12oz/1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature, plus extra for brushing
20g/¾oz/1 Tbsp golden or maple syrup
250g/9oz/2 cups plain white flour
250g/9oz/1 3/4 cups strong white flour
1¼ tsp fine sea salt
25g/1oz/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
olive oil, for greasing
flour, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 210C/410F/Gas 6.

2. Place the yeast, milk and syrup into a large bowl and whisk together.

3. Add the flour and salt and mix with your hands to bring together as a soft, sticky dough.

4. Pour over the warm melted butter and mix this into the dough with your hands, then cover the bowl and leave to stand for ten minutes.

5. Grease your hands and a flat clean surface with olive oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for ten seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and leave for a further ten minutes.

6. Repeat this ten-second kneading and resting process every ten minutes twice, then leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

7. Grease a deep 12x19cm/5x8in loaf tin and dust with flour. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into two balls and place side-by-side into the loaf tin. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for one and a half hours, or until almost doubled in height.

8. Brush the top of the loaf with a little milk and place into the preheated oven to bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is a shiny dark brown and the loaf has come away from the sides of the tin.

9. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BBA Slow & Steady #9: Cinnamon Raisin Bread Roundup

Although I'm a bit behind on posting the roundups, the bakers of Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge have been oh-so-steadily (if slowly) baking our way through Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. This bread - Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread - was baked as a loaf bread by all of the S&S bakers, and was universally loved.

Karen, of the blog Shortbread, put together an epic BBA post - ciabatta, cinnamon rolls and cinnamon raisin walnut bread all in one fell swoop. Her loaf is so pretty (pictured above), and Karen found it a "terrific" breakfast bread. Here's her post: Bread Baking Blitz Ciabatta, Cinnamon Buns, and Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Sarah, of Blue Ridge Baker, "loved everything" about this bread, especially the generous amount of raisins and nuts. No "raisin-poor" bread here! Read her post: BBA Challenge: Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Bread post

Natalia of Gatti, Fili e Farina enjoyed this bread which she made using her own sourdough starter. She loved the bread so much - toasted with jam - that she missed it when it was gone. I know that feeling! Her post: BBA Slow and Steady Cinnamon Raisins Hazelnuts Bread

Jessica (of The Singleton in the Kitchen) and her inner 5 year old were not in the mood for more sweet yeast bread, but they baked this bread and both of them ended up loving it! Wonder if they'll feel the same way about the cranberry walnut bread (the last sweet bread in BBA for a good long while). Jessica's post: BBA S&S: Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This bread turned out to be a forgotten pleasure for Di, of Di's Kitchen Notebook, one of those foods that she doesn't often remember but loves to eat. She subbed some whole wheat flour and made one loaf with and one without the optional cinnamon swirl. My bet is that Di won't forget about this bread any time soon. Di's post: To swirl or not to swirl

Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table titled her post BBA Challenge: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut bread but really there were no walnuts in sight, as her family persists in not liking nuts in their baked goods. Kayte reports that this was the best cinnamon raisin bread she's ever eaten, adding: "make this one even if you don't make anything else!"

Leslie of Lethally Delicious typically purchases an artisan version of cinnamon raisin bread, but she realized, "I guess I'm an artisan now, because this was a ringer for my favorite loaf," and is happily contemplating how she'll bake and enjoy her future loaves of this bread. Her post: BBA - Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Overcoming a few misgivings, Audrey of Food From Books welcomed shortening into her home just for this week's bread recipe. She made her bread cinnamon raisin pecan swirl and loved the crumb and the taste, although she'd reduce the cinnamon in the dough next time. Bread Baker's Apprentice #9- Cinnamon Swirl Bread

After years of bread machine loaves, Margaret of Tea and Scones has discovered a love of baking bread by hand. Even though she isn't the biggest fan of raisins, she put them in this bread and found the end result "sweet, earthy, great for toasting."

Despite a "mutant swirl" that was reminiscent of punctuation marks, Cathy of The Tortefeasor, loved her cinnamon walnut swirl bread. She also took a minute to reflect on how much she loves baking bread, observing: "It's like a little miracle happens every time that dough rises." That's something that the rest of the Slow and Steady bakers would agree with! Cathy's post: BBA: Cinnamon Raisin(less) Walnut "Swirl" Bread

Our family has always held cinnamon raisin bread near and dear to our hearts, and I found that this recipe (which I modified to add some whole grain flour) met or exceeded my "gold standard," Rudi's. I also baked the transitional cinnamon raisin bread from Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book, and liked it even more! Read my post here: The Quest for a Perfect Cinnamon Raisin Bread {bba}

Come back in the next few days for more BBA goodness - we're about to exit the "C" section of the book!