I've been meaning for some time now to get into baking some "fancier" breads mimicking the artisan-style loaves available at bakeries and grocery stores. I had my first attempt with the hearth bread awhile back but I had another ultimate goal in mind. In particular, I had visited a Loblaws a couple of months ago and was treated to an AMAZING sample of cranberry-pumpkin seed bread that I've been thinking about on and off ever since. So I thought I would finally try out a variation of this.
Except that apparently I have my seeds mixed up and I accidentally bought sunflower seeds, not pumpkin seeds. Which may have worked out because it may have actually been sunflower seeds all along that was in this aforementioned loaf. It's hard to say. I have the short-term memory of a goldfish. All I really remember is that is that it had cranberries, and was delicious.
Anyway...I decided to adapt (fairly heavily) a recipe from The Bread Bible. The actual recipe is for a raisin pecan bread but the underlying base seemed to be what I was looking for - hearth bread made from mostly white bread flour with a hint of whole wheat and studded with dried fruit and nuts/seeds. Plus I decided to bake the loaf in a Dutch oven, a la no-knead bread (I've contemplating trying no-knead bread more times than I can count, but the amount of rising time involved always ends up leading me to another recipe). I read in Ratio (I know, I've been talking about this book way too much lately...I am going to write an actual review of it soon so that I can get the rest of my raving out in one post) that you can actually bake any bread in a dutch oven to get that crispy, cracked crust without having to use complicating steaming methods like trays of ice cubes or spritzing, so it seemed like a good thing to try.
There are still a few things that I think I need to master with hearth breads, like how to form the loaves nicely and cut the slashes in the top of the loaf without completely flattening the dough, but overall this bread was really really good. Just a bit sweet and filled with the nutty toasted sunflower seeds, perfect with a smear of butter for breafast. Or with a hunk of cheese as a snack. And the dutch oven worked like a charm - Crunchy and nicely browned on the outside with NO steam necessary! I'll be baking the rest of my loaves this way for sure.
Cranberry Sunflower Loaf
adapted from the Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum
1 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water at room temperature
1 tbsp honey
1 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup lightly toasted sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
1. Soak the cranberries - place the cranberries in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Let sit for about 20 minutes until softened and plump. Drain the cranberries, reserving the liquid in a 1 cup measure. Add enough warm water to equal 1 cup (this will be your 1 cup of room temperature water)
2. Make the sponge - In a large bowl, place the bread flour, yeast, water and honey. Whisk until very smooth and you can see some air bubbles, about 2 minutes. The sponge will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap, while you make the flour mixture.
3. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the bread flour, the whole wheat flour and yeast. Spoon this mixture lightly on top of the sponge. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.
4. Mix the dough - add the salt and using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the sponge. Stir in the oil, sunflour seeds and cranberries, and mix to distribute throughout the dough. Knead the dough in the bowl until it all comes together, then scrap onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding as little of the remaining 1/4 cup of flour as possible. It will be fairly tacky but just work through it. Cover with the bowl and let rest for about 20 minutes. Knead the dough for another 5 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. It will still be a bit tacky but less than before. If you need to, add the remaining flour during this step.
5. Let the dough rise in a dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with oil. Lightly oil the top of the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
6. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead lightly. Shape the dough into an oval and place in a greased dutch oven, or a greased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit about 1 hour prior to baking.
8. Remove the plastic and let dough sit for about 5 minutes to dry out slightly. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of the dough a few times. If you're using a dutch oven, cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes; remove lid after this point and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until the bread and golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
9. Remove bread from the oven and cool for as long as you can possibly wait - I think I made it about 20 minutes (Levy recommends 2 hours....right)