Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raisin Pecan Bread

I just love fruit and nut breads so when I came across the recipe for Cherry Pecan Bread on Bread Cetera I knew that I would be baking this bread, except I would substitute the cherries, which I am not a fan of, for either raisins or cranberries. Actually the original recipe which was created by James McNamara, of Wave Hill Breads in Wilton, Connecticut called for cranberries, but SteveB of Bread Cetera is not a fan of cranberries so he substituted them with cherries, hence the name Cherry Pecan Bread on his site, and now it has since had two reincarnations in my kitchen as a Cranberry Walnut Bread and a Raisin Pecan Bread.

I expand the sourdough culture the day before I plan to make the bread and the next morning, putting the recipe together is pretty straight forward except that while I am measuring all the ingredients and reading through the steps I feel like I’m following instructions for a lab experiment rather than a recipe. Also, I think a novice baker would find these recipes a little frustrating as they are written assuming you know a thing of two about bread baking. Nevertheless SteveB has links to formulas and procedures, helpful videos and some of the nicest photos of bread I’ve ever seen, and if the rest of the breads are as good as this bread is then it is worth reading through the site and learning as much as possible before starting out.

The recipe makes two large loaves but I decided to divide the dough into four smaller loaves and shaped two in a fendu and two as batards. The bread pictured on Bread Cetera’s site is shaped in a Fendu, French for split: you shape the dough into a boule, flour the middle top lengthwise and with a dowel, press along the floured area and roll the dowel back and forth creating a "valley" in the centre about two inches wide. Then you bring the dough on either side of the “valley” to meet creating a crevice in the center and gently turn the loaves up side down on a floured couche to rise. I don’t have a couche, so I made a makeshift couche with a folded tablecloth and instead of making a mess with flour I placed the shaped dough on parchment. This worked out just fine except, I didn’t get the nice effect of flour on top of the finished loaves that a floured couche would give. Just before baking you gently flip the loaves right side up again and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment. I was anxious to see what they looked like so I flipped them before I should have and let them sit on the baking sheet and they began to pull apart in the middle so you can see mine didn’t turn out quite right.

The very first time I made this bread I used cranberries and walnuts and now that I’ve made it with raisins and pecans I can honestly say they were both very good and excellent served with a soft blue cheese like cambozola.

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