This bread is chalk full of hearty gems: cranberries, walnuts, and fragrant orange zest. With its rugged terrain, hilly valleys, and craters, these goodies are what make for a moon’s surface of a dough ball.
In addition to its rustic looking charms, I adore it even more because it is lightly graced with sweetness and given some enrichment with a bit of butter in the dough.
Most importantly, it’s a snap to make. All the more so because I didn’t feel like following the instructions to fashion the braids (I usually do my best braid work with challah), so I opted to divide the dough in two and place them in 2- 8×4 inch tins. As a result, they didn’t rise to lofty heights, but with a tightly woven crumb and bursting with nuts and dried fruit, their flavour made up for their timid stature.
I can’t count how many times I retrieved these slices from the toaster in their golden brown and toasty glory, they helped stave off many of my hunger pangs. These are perfect for breakfast, tea time, or as a snack- my suggestion is to make a sandwich and slip two pieces of old cheddar and a few paper thin slices of granny smith apples between the layers.
This recipe is from the Zen Master of Bread: Peter Reinhart
Cranberry-Walnut Bread (or originally ‘Cranberry Walnut Celebration Braid’)
3 cups (or more) bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 envelopes quick-rising dry yeast (I thought this was far too much yeast, so I just used 2 1/2 tsp of instant yeast. The slower rise promoted more flavour development)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (I used 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt)
1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
2 large eggs (room temperature)
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, hot (when it says hot, I didn’t think it meant just off the burner hot. I waited about 5 minutes before adding it to the mix)
1 1/2 tbsp orange extract (I used orange zest as well– about 1 tbsp)
1/3 cup (about) hot water (120°F to 130°F)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
Stir 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt in large bowl to blend. Add buttermilk, 2 eggs, melted butter and orange extract and stir vigorously until well blended. Gradually stir in enough hot water to form soft, slightly sticky dough. Transfer dough to floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and slightly tacky but not sticky, adding more flour if necessary, about 7 minutes. Knead in dried cranberries 1/3 cup at a time; then knead in walnuts. Form dough into ball.
Oil large bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours (mine took longer, about 2 1/2 hours, because I didn’t use as much yeast).
Lightly oil heavy large baking sheet. Punch down dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; then divide 1 dough piece into 3 equal pieces and reserve. Using palms of hands, roll out each of remaining 3 large pieces on work surface to 13-inch-long ropes. Braid ropes together. Tuck ends under and pinch together. Transfer braid to prepared baking sheet. Roll out each of reserved 3 small dough pieces to 10-inch-long ropes. Braid ropes together. Tuck ends under and pinch together. Brush large braid with some of egg glaze. Place small braid atop center of large braid. Brush small braid with some of egg glaze. Let rise uncovered in warm area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (to make loaves that will rise evenly, divide the two in two. Flatten one out into a rectangle– 8 inches long by 4 inches high… as best as you can. Then, as though you were making cinnamon buns, roll the rectangle up into a jelly roll as tightly as you can, trying to maintain the dimensions as best as you can. Pinch up the seams and place in a well greased loaf tin. Repeat the same for the other loaf. Let them rise for about another 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size. If you want to speed up this process, stick the loaves in warm spot)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Brush loaf again with egg glaze. Bake until loaf is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 45 minutes. Transfer loaf to rack and cool at least 45 minutes before slicing. (Can be prepared ahead. Cool completely. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze up to 2 weeks. Uncover and thaw at room temperature.)
(p.s. I am submitting this to YeastSpotting. To visit this awesome site go to:http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/ )