Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whole Wheat Cranberry Pecan Bread

If there is some pent-up aggression that needs working out, this bread is the perfect thing to bake. Don't underestimate the amount of sheer force it will take to incorporate the chopped cranberries and pecans into the dough. I found myself on the verge of a sweat at one point.

This bread was my first foray into using a sponge starter, which is just a mixture of flour, yeast and water. It is set aside for many hours and provides the loaf with a richer flavor.

For the sponge:
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside for 12-24 hours. I set my bowl on the radiator which has become my essential kitchen tool lately. It won't look like much of anything but a rough floury dough at first, but the next day, it will be foamy with a few bubbles on the surface.

For one large, rustic lovely loaf:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped (I used my food processor)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, whisk together the yeast, flours cinnamon, salt, and the Whole Grain Bread Improver. Beat in the sponge, oil, agave nectar, water and juice until well combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead it for about 5 minutes, adding a bit of flour if the dough is sticking to the bowl.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours. Place the risen dough on a lightly greased surface and press it into a flat circle. Sprinkle half the cranberries and half the pecans over the surface and roll up into a cylinder. Knead away, not becoming too worried when the dough takes on an alarming magenta color. Once the first bit is worked in fairly well, keep adding the cranberries and pecans until they are all kneaded in. Form into a 6-inch ball and place on a greased baking sheet, covered loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap. Set aside for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top of the loaf and bake for 45 minutes, covering loosely with foil after 20 minutes to prevent too much darkening. Let cool on a wire rack.


alita said...

This is the bread I will eat in heaven - yum - it's one of my favorite foods on earth.

burt c said...

Wow, this looks fantastic. Now I have to encourage Eric to make it....

Hendersonville Epicurean said...

Fantastic! I'm being sincere when I say your photo of this bread is one of the most enticing food shots I've seen!