SOURDOUGH LOAF WITH CRANBERRIES AND WALNUTS

I blogged on a similar sourdough last year, but this is a slightly different version, with a bit of semolina and whole wheat flour. I baked this bread for a very special occasion, the visit of dear friends I had not seen in 15 years!  A cute story behind our friendship needs to be told.  Back in 1995. When I moved from Paris to Norman to join the University of Oklahoma, a colleague from our department insisted I should meet Denise, a Brazilian graduate student from the College of Education.  It so happens that I’m not that wild about this type of arranged meeting.  I don’t know exactly why, maybe I simply prefer to meet people naturally and make connections independently of the place where they were born. And guess what? Denise felt exactly like me about the whole thing. But we both liked that Professor very much, and decided what the heck, let’s just give this a try. To make a long story short, we “clicked” in a way that we could not have anticipated in a million years!  Our friendship continued after she, her husband Hélio and three kids (now three adults) emigrated permanently to England a few years later. Hélio now travels to Texas on a regular basis for work, and that made it easier for them to plan a quick visit to our neck of the woods. Fifteen years!  Hard to believe time passed so quickly… Denise loves cranberries, so this bread was a natural choice to welcome them to our home. She also loves white chocolate, but that story shall be left for another post…

denise-sourdough

DENISE’S SOURDOUGH WITH CRANBERRIES AND WALNUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the starter (you won’t use everything)
30 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
55 g water
45 g all-purpose flour

For the dough:
65 g starter (about half of starter prepared)
220 g water
160 g semolina flour
120 g bread flour
35 g whole wheat flour
7 g sea salt
80 g dried cranberries
50 g toasted walnut pieces

Make your starter 12 hours before you intend to prepare the dough. Let it ferment at room temperature.

To the appropriate amount of starter (65 g, remember you are not using the full amount made) add the water and mix gently to dissolve it. No need to completely dissolve the starter at this point. Add the flours and mix, allow it to sit with the water for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, mix it by folding several times, to incorporate the salt. Add the cranberries and the walnuts, mix them gently. Allow the dough to ferment for 5 hours. Fold 5 times at 30 minute intervals. That will take you to 2.5 hours fermentation. Allow the dough to ferment for 2.5 more hours undisturbed.

Shape the dough as a ball, place it in the fridge overnight. Remove it from the fridge one hour before baking, as you heat the oven. Invert the shaped loaf on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper for easy transfer to the oven.

Bake at 450 F with initial steam for 20 minutes, reduce temperature to 425 F and bake for about 25 more minutes. Use your favorite method to generate steam, I like a covered Dutch oven with the lid moist with water before covering the bread. After 30 minutes I open the lid to allow the bread to brown. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I am always a bit anxious when it comes to baking bread for special friends. I want it to be perfect, delicious, awesome, but sourdough is a harsh mistress… You can make one perfect loaf, use the same starter, the same recipe a couple of days later and open the oven to find a bread that turned out more like a flat pancake. Usually still very tasty, but… well, you get my point. I made this bread the day before they arrived, so that if it was not worthy of my friends, I could have time for a plan B: a frantic drive to the grocery store. Imagine that!  But to my relief it all had a happy ending. A beautiful marriage between cranberries and walnuts, nice balance of whole wheat with regular flour so that the bread itself had a nice texture and taste.  Perfect with goat cheese, but even just a little butter will work well.  Honestly, even naked it’s great. The bread. Obviously.

I am submitting this post to Bread Box Round Up,
hosted by Karen, the Bread Baking Goddess.

 

cranberries-and-walnuts-sourdough-from-bewitching-kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

THREE YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

FOUR YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

SIX YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

 

 

 

HAVE A CRAN-MERRY CHRISTMAS!

For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!  

For those who don’t, Happy Holidays!  

When I first arrived in the US  for my post-doc (bringing with me a pretty broken English), I thought that a straight translation from Portuguese (Feliz Natal) would work quite well to greet my friends. I had no idea that Merry Christmas is the greeting of choice. There is a very interesting story behind it, if you are fond of this type of trivia click here.  At any rate, if you happen to know a foreigner who is new to the US of A, do him or her a favor and make this point clear. My American colleagues were very sweet and graciously accepted my Happy Christmas,  until a good soul pushed me to the side and explained that even though there was nothing fundamentally wrong with happy, merry was the way to go. Now, would it be too bad to wish you a Cran-Merry Christmas? I hope not.  Cranberries are everywhere these days, they are appropriately red, cute, plump, go well in sweet and savory dishes, they are festive, and… I love them. Since it is the season of giving, I share not one but two recipes. Let’s start by sweetening up this festive day, shall we?

CranberryChristmasCake

CRANBERRY CHRISTMAS CAKE
(from Barefeet in the Kitchen)

3 eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here 

baked
Comments: This cake is a must-make. Period. First there will be a bit of a surprise from the sharp tartness, but then everything mellows down into the perfect amount of sweetness. Quickly you’ll realize that behind its adorable face lies danger. One piece will very likely lead to a second one. Maybe a third… I baked it around 6pm for a small reception we were hosting a couple of hours later, so I could not quite let the cake cool completely before slicing it. No harm was done, though.  Next day it was even better, I think the flavor of the cranberries permeated the crumb a little more. It was perfect to start the day with a cup of coffee.  So there you have it, a very simple cake to prepare, huge pay-off in taste. You are very welcome….

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And now that we got the sweetness taken care of, let’s take cranberries on another culinary adventure: Cranberry Sauce, a mandatory side dish at Thanksgiving.  So tasty that it should never be limited to one day of your year. When it comes to cranberry sauce, you will find countless versions, often using ingredients like Port wine, dried figs, pomegranate molasses, all sorts of exotic additions that promise to make it truly memorable. Not that theres’s anything wrong with it, I even have one such version in the blog.  However, when I saw Dorothy’s recipe and read her comments about it, I knew I had to try it myself. She went through many recipes, always coming back to this one. Simplicity, few ingredients, 15 minutes of your time.

Cranberry Sauce-2
BEST EVER CRANBERRY SAUCE
(from Shockingly Delicious)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
Zest of 1 orange (orange part only)

In a large, heavy saucepan, add sugar, water and spices and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, syrup is clear and comes to a rolling boil, about 3 minutes. In a colander, rinse and pick over the cranberries to remove any mushy ones. Add cranberries to boiling syrup and continue cooking, uncovered, just until they begin to pop, about 2-3 minutes (set the timer). Be careful not to cook them too long or they will get mushy.

Remove from heat, stir in orange zest and cool to room temperature, uncovered. Ladle into clean jars or plastic containers, label and refrigerate until serving time.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough to serve 6-8.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had no intention to blog on this recipe until I tried the sauce. It was everything Dorothy promised it to be. The spices are just right, and the texture of the cranberries spot on. I think I’ve always over-cooked my cranberries thinking that was the way to do it. Trust Dorothy’s directions, set the timer, stop the cooking even though you think it’s not nearly enough. We had one vegetarian guest at our  home for Thanksgiving who arrived from India just a few months ago, so it was his first Thanksgiving and first contact with cranberry sauce. He absolutely loved it, in fact I almost wanted to take a picture of his plate, he had a bit of mashed potatoes and this humongous amount of cranberry sauce all around it… Made my day!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Avocado Mousse that Stole the Show

THREE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Popovers

FOUR YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

SIX YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: AMAZING APRICOT BARS

Here we are. Last Monday of September, which means Summer is gone. Over. Finito. Acabado. I could sit here and whine for hours, filling your screen with paragraph after paragraph describing in detail my despair, frustration, and overall gloom. Telling you how my interactions with human beings are affected as the average daily temperature goes down. You don’t want to be around me in January, even with all that New Year upbeat aura. But, enough with the negativity.

The last Monday of the month brings many reasons to be joyful, as it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club. This month I got a fantastic blog to stalk and cook from: A Palatable Pastime, hosted by Sue, who lives in Ohio with her husband and two lovely cats. She develops her own recipes – often with a Southern US flair – and not only has won several contests, but her productions have been featured in many top-notch sites like LDS Living, Mrs. Field’s and the Christian Science Monitor’s food section. I was thrilled to stalk her site, although a bit overwhelmed by the number of possibilities bookmarked to pick, cook, and share with my readers today.

Twelve recipes made the final list, but to keep it manageable, I’ll just mention half of them: Sweet Potato Biscuits (I’ve always wanted to make them… was very close to choosing it for this assignment), Thai Salmon Curry….   Vegan Mushroom Pumpkin Chili (her description tells me it’s a winner of a recipe), Dutch-Baby Pancake (another recipe I’ve always wanted to try), Thai Larb Soft Rolls… and Sue’s Almost Famous Meatballs (great post!). There were so many tasty options to choose from, but in the end I made a batch of her Amazing Apricot Bars. No doubt 2015 is the year of the apricot in the Bewitching Kitchen…  These turned out spectacularly amazing!

Apricot Bars

AMAZING APRICOT BARS
(from A Palatable Pastime)

For shortbread crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8-1/2 ounces)

For topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, toasted
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey

For finishing:
1/3 cup apricot jam
3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350F.

Butter the inside of a glass 8×8-inch square baking pan. Cream together the butter and sugar (thoroughly mix until sugar dissolves). Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour and mix into a dough. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, then chill in the refrigerator while you continue.

Mix the dry ingredients for the topping together in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with sugar and honey over low heat. Stir in the dry fruit topping mixture and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes then remove from heat. Take out the baking pan, and spread the top of the dough with the simply fruit apricot spread. Top the spread with the cooked fruit mixture.

Sprinkle the topping with an extra 3 tablespoons of sweetened flaked coconut. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ApricotComposite

The bars were juicy, sweet, with a slight tang from the cranberries to balance flavors. The crust., which I find the trickiest component of this type of concoction was perfect: not too hard, not too crumbly.  As usual, I brought the whole batch to our department, and by 9:30 am, not a single crumb was left on the platter.  So, I advise that if you intend to share it friends, make sure to grab a square for yourself right away…  They are seriously addictive.

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Sue, I thoroughly enjoyed stalking your site, I love the way you go the extra mile to explain the technique behind your recipes, so that even a novice cook will be able to make the many tasty things you share on your blog.  I hope you also had fun with your assignment this month. My readers are invited to browse through this month’s collection by poking the cute frog at the end of this post.

Apricot Bars2
ONE YEAR AGO: Spiralizer Fun

TWO YEARS AGO: Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Carriage House Apple-Walnut Pie

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Marsala

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Home, sweet home

SIX YEARS AGO: Levain Bread with Caramelized Onions

RED WINE SOURDOUGH BREAD WITH CRANBERRIES

The Fresh Loaf Forum is a virtual paradise for bread bakers, as not only very experienced folks share their best recipes, but you can also get feedback in case problems arise with a recipe.  Last week I stopped by the site and the thread right at the top had the following title: Sourdough Wine Bread. That got my full attention.  I clicked on it, and was blown away by the gorgeous photos, and the unusual color of the bread’s crumb, given by the wine and the dried cranberries.  I revived my starter that same day, and started this bread on a Friday night.  Sometimes you  should not wait to chase a dream.loaf1RED WINE SOURDOUGH BREAD WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES
(adapted from The Fresh Loaf Forum, bread by Yuko)

102 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
288 g  all-purpose flour
80 g water
123 g red wine
6.7 g Salt
80 g dried cranberries

In a bowl, mix flour, wine, and water roughly, cover it with plastic and keep for 12 hours in the fridge (autolyse).

Add sourdough starter and mix by folding dough in the bowl. Add  cranberries and mix by folding dough in the bowl. Add salt and slap & fold for 3 – 4 minutes or until the dough becomes a ball.  Bulk fermentation at room temperature, folding the dough every half and hour until it develops enough strength (I did 4 sets of folds).

Let it rise until the dough starts showing the yeast activity. It takes about 6 hours total depending on the temperature of your kitchen (I used my bread proofing box set at 78 F).  Shape the bread as a boule (or 2 baguettes), place in a banetton or other appropriate container, and let it proof in the fridge for 16 to 18 hours.

Pull it out of the fridge and leave it out for one to three hours (see comments).  Slash the bread and bake in a 450F oven with initial steam for a total of 40 minutes (for a boule), or 20 to 25 minutes for baguettes.

Cool on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  Preparing this bread had me worried up until the point I finally sliced it. Something seemed terribly wrong, as I detected very little fermentation, even though I kept the dough for almost 7 hours at 78 F. The original recipe called for retarding the dough in the fridge and shaping it next day, but my dough seemed so…. slow!  I decided to shape it on the same day, and retard the dough in its final form, ready for the oven.  Ideally, you should remove the bread from the fridge and allow it to almost double in size.  That was not happening, so after a couple of hours I simply had to bake it.

Now, a little tangent.  I usually wake up several times during the night, and tend to think about our experiments while trying to go back to sleep.  Sometimes (unfortunately not that often),  when I wake up again an hour or so later, I have a new idea to solve a problem or at least approach it.  Almost as if during my sleep something goes to work “behind my back”…   😉  That Saturday night, I went to bed thinking about the red wine sourdough and why it seemed so weak.  Exactly at 2am I woke up with one word blinking in my mind: SULFITES!  All wine these days is preserved with sulfites! Maybe some batches have a higher concentration, maybe some of the bacteria or yeast in my starter was particularly sensitive to it.  At any rate, one thing is certain: when you add red wine to make the dough the pH will be lower (higher acidity) so that will affect the efficiency of fermentation.  Add to that the sulfites, and things can get trickier.   Discussing these points in The Fresh Loaf forum, one of the bakers mentioned that when he adds wine to the dough the crumb of his bread gets tighter (indicating lower production of gas). For that reason,  he normally tweaks his recipes to lower the alcohol and increase the water.  Since in this case we are hoping for a nice red tint in the crumb, compromise is in order.  I’d say keep the recipe as it is, and see how your starter behaves with it.  Just for fun, I’ll try to find an organic red wine for my next “experiment”. Organic wines cannot have extra sulfites added,  so the levels of the chemical will be low, ranging from 10 to 20 ppm (parts per million).  Non-organic red wines often reach 125 ppm of sulfites or higher.

Even if the fermentation was not at its peak, this bread was delicious!  I love the slightly sweetness given by the cranberries.  My favorite match for the bread was a Maytag blue cheese, sharp and salty.   Next day, slightly toasted, it seemed even better!

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I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

TWO YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

THREE YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola