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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recipe: John's Cranberry Chestnut Bread

John's Cranberry Chestnut Bread
By John Barecki

Bread is truly a simple process—flour, water, yeast, and salt. All ingredients are capable of producing great elements of flavor on their own, but when combined they form something wonderful for the senses. Add another ingredient or two and the results can be remarkable.

I just put together an easy chestnut and cranberry bread recipe that will go perfect with just about any meal (note: walnuts will work just as well as chestnuts). I begin by mixing up a starter, something called called a biga, which is simply flour, water, and a little yeast mixed together and allowed to ferment for 13 to 16 hours in order to give the finished bread more complexity and flavor. After the biga ferments, I mix it and all remaining ingredients together by hand, let it rise, bake and cool. All in all it takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete this recipe, not counting the fermentation of the biga. See below for a more detailed look at my recipe.

To make a biga

    • 180 grams white bread flour (about 1.5 cups)
    • 107 grams 70-degree water (about 1/4 cup)
    • 1.3 grams instant yeast (about 1/4 teaspoon)
Mix all ingredients together into a shaggy ball and knead until it becomes tight and rubbery. Do not add any additional water. Place ball into a container big enough to allow the dough to double in size and coated with nonstick spray. Allow to rise 1-2 hours. It can be used at this point, but if you lightly push it down and keep it in the refrigerator overnight for 12 hours it will develop more flavor and complexity.

Final Dough Recipe

    • 163 gram Kamut wheat* (about 1.25 cups)
    • 247 grams white flour * (about two cups)
    • 247 grams spring white wheat* (about two cups)
    • 462 grams 95-degree water (about 16 oz)
    • 52 grams maple syrup (about 2 oz)
    • 16 grams salt* (about 1 tablespoon)
    • 2.5 grams instant yeast* (3/4 teaspoon)
    • 2 cups fresh cranberries chopped
    • 3 cups shelled chestnuts (or walnuts) roughly chopped
    • All of the Biga
*Denotes ingredients available at Siciliano's

Mix all ingredients together. Start by adding the biga to the water to warm it up and to make it more pliable. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until they are mostly incorporated. Place dough on a stable work surface and knead or mix for 10 minutes. Put dough in a greased container and allow to proof for 45 minute. After that, take the dough and pull it lightly, folding it onto itself once. Then allow one more 45 minute rest.

If you are using a baking stone or a steaming tray place it into the oven set to 450 degrees. Form dough into a round and do a final rest for 1 to 1.5 hours. To see if it is ready, lightly press with your finger and see if the dough springs back. If it does, it's ready. Carefully pour water into your steaming tray, or use a spray bottle and mist a few times after you have placed the dough in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, put a sheet of aluminum foil on top. Take the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes and enjoy!

There are many many possibilities when it comes to bread and we have just about everything, ingredient-wise, to facilitate them. So the next time you're in the store and need something new to try, be sure to check out our bakery corner in the homebrew selection.

Shelling chestnuts

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