Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Baking Bible: Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

This week's project was the Swedish apricot Walnut Bread--a little loaf chock full of raisins, walnuts, and apricots with a slight hint of rye. This bread is meant to be served with a cheese course but it is still delicious with a healthy slather of butter.   
 
I have made bread only a couple of times, and I missed last month's Panettone, so when I saw this week's project was BREAD I took a deep breath and read the recipe 1000 times. I have made a bread similar to this (Whole Wheat Bread with Golden Raisins and Pecans) and it was a bit of a bust, as the bread was pretty dense due to serious user's error. So I was determined not to fudge it up.


First up: make the biga. Now, I only know what a biga is because the Alpha Bakers needed to make a biga for the panettone, and I read as many of the baker's blog posts as I could. Basically it is a blob of flour, yeast, and water that hopefully sits around in the fridge for 72 hours to develop depth of flavor. This biga had equal parts pumpernickel and bread flour. I couldn't find pumpernickel, but I did find dark rye flour and used it instead. Mark kept pulling the biga out of the refrigerator and asking, "what is this??" as if he was hoping he could throw it away. Sadly, my biga never really got bubbly and doubled, so I suspect my yeast is on the way out. I used the biga anyway.

bribe the baby with puffs so the biga can get made!
Next up: make the dough. Walnuts are toasted and skinned and set aside. The biga is cut into pieces and plopped into the mixer with a bit of water. Then more bread flour, salt, and yeast are added and the KA goes to town kneading the dough. Golden raisins and walnuts are kneaded in and then the dough is ready for the first rise.

I noticed that many Alpha Bakers rose their panettone dough in the microwave with a cup of boiling water (Rose suggests this in the back of the Baking Bible) so that's what I did, too. It worked like a charm.

The next step is to degas the dough and give it another rise. Rose gives the option to do the second rise overnight in the refrigerator, so that is what I decided to do.

The next morning the dough had only risen about halfway to doubled so I left it in there to continue doing its thing. And it continued to sit at halfway to doubled all day. By that evening I was a little panicky so I asked the Alphas what they thought was going on. Thankfully many of them told me that their dough didn't rise much in the refrigerator and so I toned down my panic and went to bed. Yes, my dough ended up spending 48 hours in the fridge.

The next day I pulled the dough out in the morning to come back to room temperature. Then around lunch time I bribed the child with the ruler so I could shape the dough, add the unsulphered apricots and leave it for a final rise. Then a couple of hours later I preheated  the oven, and an hour later I finally popped the bread into the oven. I would never call the Swedes a relaxed mellow people, but this bread certainly seemed it as it didn't care how off the schedule I was.

never doubt the power of the ruler
The bread emerged from the oven with a nice thin, crisp crust. Mark was very sad to hear we had to wait 4 hours before we could eat it. When we did cut into it, it revealed a very fruity and nutty inside. The bread didn't seem like a dense mass like that Whole Wheat etc bread was, but honestly there's not a ton of bread to fruit and nuts. That could be due to my possibly dying yeast, but who knows. We enjoyed the bread that night with butter, the next morning toasted with more butter, and later that afternoon with thin slices of cheddar (the only cheese we had in the house). A good bread, and really pretty easy to make. It feels nice to have put the ghost of the dense bread behind me.
 



12 comments:

  1. The unsulphured apricots look great! Next time I'm choosing them over aesthetics. Did you see the link on Alpha facebook with the bread proofer Dore Greenspan's husband made out of an Igloo cooler? I'm going to try heating one of those neck warmers instead of using hot water in the microwave. Puffs and ruler bribing the baby! Have to snatch whatever time you can grab at this stage. He sure is cute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Vicki! I did see that link, and it is pretty ingenious. Will a neck warmer provide enough moist heat? i can't wait to see your experiment!

      Delete
  2. So happy your bread came out wonderfully. I got a little nervous when I read about the ruler (hahaha) but then saw the photo--whew! Reading on iPhone so small screen. On the way to fox 4 in Dallas to make the praline pecan meringues on the morning show.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh, Rose, I didn't even think about what bribing a baby with a ruler could also mean. Good thing I provided a photo! I hope Dallas was fun!

      Delete
  3. Beautiful bread, Jen!! That is one beautiful baby, too! I love this bread and will make it again soon. It was so good with baked brie! I have learned to label things like a biga in the fridge or my husband (like yours) will see that uninspiring blob of dough in the fridge and throw it away!! I hope you will come and see my results at www.artfuloven.com.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Looks really good. Glad it came out good for you. Next time there is a bread recipe, you can jump right in!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your baby is so cute and he looks so cheerful about baking. I like your description of the biga as a blob. The biga is a lot like the Blob in that schlock horror movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha, as long as the Biga doesn't take over the refridgerator!

      Delete
  6. Your bread looks great ECL. My biga was alive and my bread came out dense - I think it's all the filling that makes it dense (that's my theory anyway).

    I love all your bribing story and how you can do all the steps to bake the bread with a little baby around. Elliot is gonna grow up to be a baker who measures everything!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! I'm looking forward to when he can help weigh things with me. And check their height with the ruler, like Woody!

      Delete
  7. Wow, your bread looks beautiful. My rising times took much longer than the book suggested. Congratulations on your success!

    ReplyDelete
  8. beautiul bread Jenn. My url and name have changed again, finally I hope!!! Something happened as I am typing now so maybe it clicked in itself:
    New url: alphabakerjoan.blogspot.com and my name is "Alpha Baker Joan". The other name may not go away but it will say 'no blog.' if opened.
    This new one is up and running. Thanks. j

    ReplyDelete