Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cranberry Almond Lemon Bread

I love bread. I do. Can't imagine life without it. And I'm a big fan of no-knead artisan bread recipes. In fact, I don't think I'll ever knead dough again. What's the point? I've had more success with the no-knead varieties than I ever had with traditional bread baking. It's easy. It's successful. I'm basically lazy, so this is a win.

Recipes and instructions for no knead breads are available all over the internet, and there are many books out there, too.  The one I am most familiar with is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Easy. For the most part, I follow the basic recipe from Artisan bread in five. I do make a few small, but notable, changes.

Lots of things could affect it, but I get a better rise and airier bread if I increase the yeast a little bit, and add some sugar or honey to the dough. The sugar feeds the yeast, making it rise more.  It's important to follow the recipes the way they are written first - then play with them and see what works best for you. 

Well, this weekend, I was reading through my blog list. I subscribe to a lot of blogs - almost all are connected to food or crochet.  I get lots of inspiration from what others are doing, and this weekend, bread was on the list. Simply So Good is featuring a Cranberry, Almond, Orange, Artisan no-knead bread! It looks fabulous. I MUST try it.  And the dough is rising right now.  I have one minor change - no oranges in the house, but plenty of lemon, thus my version is Cranberry - Almond - Lemon Bread. I am a firm believer in substituting citrus at will, and a little thing like lack of oranges will not keep me from my bread!

Here's what I did:

Combined gently in my Kitchenaid standing mixer:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 TBSP yeast
about 2 TBSP honey (squirted in, not measured)
1 TBSP kosher salt
Two big handfuls of dried cranberry
about a cup toasted, slivered almonds
grated peel of one lemon
3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

Yes, the dough is super sticky. If you compare my ingredients to Simply So Good, you can see they are almost the same.  I did follow her suggestion and toast the almonds. And knowing what I know about MY success with artisan breads, I increased the yeast a little bit and added that squirt of honey.  

I covered the bowl and left it on the counter for two hours. When I returned, it had more than doubled in size. At this point, I generously floured my parchment paper, and dumped the bread dough into a heap. With floured hands, I shaped it into a loaf, covered it with a linen cloth, and walked away. 

Here is the wet sticky dough after the first rising...

And here it is floured, on the parchment paper, ready for more rising.

And here is a favorite tip I picked up from Pinterest!  See that lid?  That's from a Parmesan cheese container. It fits on a standard canning jar. I keep flour in this one, but I have several jars just like it with other things. It is super handy! I don't have to grab my big flour bin from the cabinet when I just need a little bit to thicken a sauce or for baking.  I don't know who figured out that this works, but I'm very grateful.

A few hours later (maybe 3?) I returned.  I put my baking stone on the top rack in the oven, and my old metal jelly roll pan on the bottom rack, and heated things up to 450. This is how they do it on Artisan Bread in Five.  You put the bread on the hot stone, and pour some cold (or at least room temp) water in the metal pan.  Steam happens. Shut the door to keep it in.  Bake, about 30 minutes or so.  It will smell amazing. Take it out of the oven and leave it alone. Do NOT cut it yet. Wait. At least 20 minutes. Longer if you can. Cutting hot bread is bad. It ruins the texture.

Here is the result.  I cut a few slashes in the top of the bread before baking. It's not necessary, but something they suggest at Artisan Bread in Five.  Look at that gorgeous crust.  

And here it is, cut open - filled with luscious cranberries and crunchy almonds. The texture of the bread itself is light and airy. Delicious.

I couldn't resist, and put a little butter on this slice. Not necessary, but hey, I like butter.