Thursday, October 29, 2015

Whole Wheat Bread with Hazelnuts and Cranberries

There are too many things to do. I don’t care who you are. There are just too many things to do. I’ve begun to understand that getting things done is really a matter of making good decisions. Decisions about what things to buckle down and do.

I finally decided to get this bread made when I realized I might not have much more time to use the fresh sage that’s still growing in a pot on my porch. I loved the idea of combining nuts, dried fruit, and fresh herbs in bread (raisins and rosemary go really well in this bread). I was a bit concerned, however, about the 100% whole-wheat-ness of the original recipe. I’ve always held on to at least a bit of white flour when baking bread, just because of my preference for its texture.

There was an entire 5-pound bag of white whole wheat flour (whole wheat flour from a lighter-colored variety of wheat) in my pantry, though, and I can’t remember what I was planning on using it for, so I took the leap and tried the white whole wheat in the bread, and left out the refined white flour. I was still a little worried, because I had tried white whole wheat flour before and found it disappointed. I think whole-grain proponents have been pushing that variety as if it could fool you into thinking it’s white flour, but really, it acts like whole wheat flour when baking. For this reason, I added a hefty dose of vital gluten to my bread. I need my bread to be like bread, not like crumbly bricks.

The 100% whole wheat-ness of the final result was pleasant and did not detract from the delicious flavors of good hazelnuts and hazelnut oil and cranberries, as well as the haunting lilt of the fresh sage. I made the dough into two small round loaves, enjoying it on its own or alongside a soup or stew, rather than as a sandwich bread, although I think it would be delicious as the platform for tartines or crostini. It’s great all by itself, though, and I love the combination of the nutty whole wheat, hazelnuts, sage, and sweet-tart cranberries.

I’m glad I decided to make this bread, and I’m glad I decided to try white whole wheat flour again. Never mind that I didn’t have any regular whole wheat flour to play with anyway. I was happy to have one less decision to make, so I could get something delicious done.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread with Sage
Based on a recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine

I managed to find toasted and skinned hazelnuts in the store, but you can use the method in this post to toast and skin raw nuts if you wish.

1 ¼ cup warm water (about 100 F)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil
3 ½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided
2 tablespoons vital gluten flour
1 ½ teaspoon fine salt
¾ cup chopped hazelnuts, preferably toasted and skinned
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
¾ cup dried cranberries

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (or another large bowl), combine the water, yeast and brown sugar. Let stand about 5 minutes, or until the yeast appears foamy.

2. Add the hazelnut oil, 2 cups white whole wheat flour, and gluten. Mix at low speed using the paddle attachment for the mixer (or stir together if working by hand) to form a batter. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand about 30 minutes.

3. After 30 minutes the batter should have puffed up from the activity of the yeast. Add the salt and about ½ cup flour. Begin kneading using the dough hook for the mixer. Continue kneading, adding as much of the remaining flour as you can while still keeping the dough smooth and stretchy. (If working by hand, stir in as much of the flour as you can, then turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a smooth, elastic dough). The kneading process (whether by machine or by hand) should take about 10 minutes and result in a stretchy but smooth dough.

4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and work in the hazelnuts, sage and cranberries.

5. Shape the dough into a ball. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray (or grease it with oil or butter). Place the dough in the greased bowl. Spray or grease the top of the dough ball. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Cover all with a towel and let stand about 1 hour, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

6. Gently deflate the risen dough and shape it into a ball again. Cover and let stand about 5 minutes. Prepare a baking sheet by greasing it, or covering it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Divide the dough in half and shape it into two balls. Cover and let stand about 1 hour, or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

7. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Slash the dough balls across the top with a sharp knife.

8. Bake at 375 F for about 35 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and crusty on the outside, and tests done on the inside (it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or a thermometer probe inserted in the bread reads about 200 F.) Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 2 round loaves of about 8-10 slices each.

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