Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Sunday, October 4, 2008

I wasn't planning to bake anything this weekend because my daughter Sarah and I are going to Paris for a week on Tuesday, and I had 28 things on my list of things to do this weekend. Not one of them was baking bread. But then I thought that I remembered Rose writing about a bread she'd baked so she'd have something good to eat on a flight, and I thought that if there was a bread that was flight-worthy, Rose would certainly know about it.
When I went back and read about it again, I realized there was no way I could compete with her organization. She baked the bread, gilded it lightly with mayonnaise, and made lovely chicken sandwiches. Brownies for dessert. Naturally, she not only baked the bread and the brownies, but probably made the mayonnaise and roasted the chicken. Maybe she went out and killed the chicken, too, for all I know. I didn't do all that, but I did bake a fabulous loaf of bread. If I made this bread before every flight I took, I'd feel a lot friendlier toward Northwest Airlines.
This is not a difficult bread to make, but the directions are lengthy, even by Rose's standards, and there are a lot of steps. Last night, while Jim and I were watching Episodes 1 and 2 from the first season of Mad Men (watch it and you'll see why everyone is crazy about this series!), I roasted the walnuts, soaked the cranberries, mixed about a quarter of the walnuts and two kinds of flour in the food processor, and made a sponge with the same two flours (bread and whole wheat), the water the cranberries had soaked in, some barley malt syrup, and some sourdough starter. Amazingly, I had everything on hand. Even the barley malt syrup.

By the time we were done with the second episode, the walnuts were chopped, the cranberries were soaked, and the flour mixture was atop the bubbling dough starter.
This morning, I took the flour and starter out of the refrigerator, and, after I'd had a few cups of coffee--so I was able to read the directions--I mixed up the flour and starter and added the walnuts.

It's so shiny and rich it almost looks like chocolate ice cream (inexplicably resting on a floured counter).
This dough gets shaped into a rectangle and spread with cranberries,

rolled up like a jelly roll,

shaped into a ball, and slipped into a bowl to rise.

After two risings, the dough is shaped into a torpedo, and put into a makeshift couche--this is a stiff linen towel sent to me all the way from England from my blogging buddy Melinda. I closed it with a clothespin, and let it rise again.

I think this must be Rose's only bread that is not baked on a baking stone. I happened to read this warning just as I was about to put the baking stone into the oven. By the bye, my theory has always been that if you can read, you can cook. I think that I've forgotten to read some critical direction in my last three or four baking forays, and I've found that the other side of the coin is that if you can't read, you can't cook. I don't think that I screwed this recipe up, for a change.

No baking stone because the cranberry water has sugar and and the malt syrup also has sugar, both of which make the bread vulnerable to burning. You further protect it by draping aluminum foil over the bread after it's baked about 20 minutes.
I sliced two pieces for each of us and we were both faced with the butter-or-no-butter dilemma. Jim opted for none, and swore that it needed none (although he spread some on, none too thinly, on his next piece and didn't seem unhappy), but I volunteered to taste-test it with butter added. (In the spirit of The Mad Men--set in the day when food and drink had not yet turned into our enemies). This bread is so tasty that it doesn't need butter. But it's not harmed by it either. I highly recommend this bread, although you might want to try it on a weekend where you to-do list is not quite so daunting. Or you might want to ignore your to-do list, and just bake the bread.

21 comments:

Melinda said...

I was sure you'd be gone by now, so I was surprised to see your new post.
The bread looks so beautiful! I must make this for Christmas time. I love cranberries and cranberries in bread sounds even more delightful!
I am amazed you were able to make the bread when you are so busy getting ready to go away. You are a superwoman!
Doesn't the towel look good wrapped in your bread dough. I am pleased you can use it for your bread baking.
I just hope your homemade bread sandwiches don't get confiscated by the airport security. I am sure they will think of some reason why they pose a threat, seize them, and eat them for their own lunch later.
Have a wonderful trip Jim, Marie and Sarah. Bon Voyage.

Chavi said...

What a nice looking bread. If only I could find fresh cranberries in New York now. I'm so glad you updated. I'm recovering from surgery and just today I was reading through previous entries of yours--- your humor and fabulous photos of bread cheered me right up. Enjoy Paris. Let me know if those macaroons and breads are as good as they all say...

evil cake lady said...

this bread sure does have a nice looking dough. almost makes me want to try bread baking!
have a lovely time in paris! i look forward to all your stories and jim's photos when you return!

Doughadear said...

Hi Marie
This is an all time favourite bread of mine and I have made it along with the raisin walnut variation which is equally as good many times. You should try it with cambozola, I swear you will think you are in culinary heaven. My daughter and I can easily polish off half a loaf in one sitting. It is the perfect bread, with its lovely rosy hue, to set out on a cheese platter during the holidays.
Have a great trip, look forward to hearing all about it.
Oriana

Doughadear said...

Just a correction to the above - the variation is the Raisin Pecan not Raisin Walnut although I'm sure that would be good too.

jini said...

it looks really delicious marie and i'm sure you will have better in flight food than anyone else in the plane. nwa has certainly taken the fun out of flying of late.
paris with sarah sounds absolutely delightful. we will need details when you return!

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
I'm leaving tomorrow (Tuesday). When are you going to Bruges? I wouldn't be surprised if the food got confiscated--I'm sure it violates some rule. You don't have to wait until Christmas to bake this bread!

Chavi,
This bread is made with dried cranberries, so you don't have to wait until fresh cranberry season to make it. Recovering from surgery is really a drag (although better than not recovering I guess). Just for you, I will eat lots of macaroons and breads!


ECL,
I already have photos of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame--I want to take pictures of food. (I don't know whether this is considered rude in France; I guess I'll find out). Jim is going off on his own to Germany to visit some old Army haunts, so I'll have to rely on my own little camera.

Oriana,
I just finished eating another piece of bread with a slice of havarti. Very nice. At this rate, the bread will be gone before we leave. I'll bet any fruit and nut combination would be good, but the cranberries make it especially pretty.

Jini,
I'm really looking forward to spending the time with Sarah, and she's so excited it's contagious!

Anonymous said...

Hi there-

I am glad you tried and reviewed this recipe since cranberries are the fruit for fall. Have a great trip, Marie! Can't wait to read about it.

Be well,
Laura Lee

PS: Have you seen "The Modern Baker" by Nick Maglieri (his newest book)? BEAUTIFUL book - great instruction & detail. I have to buy it!

breadbasketcase said...

Laura,
Another big fat baking book? I love them. I don't have any by Maglieri, but I hear they're fantastic. I hope you buy it--and let me know how you like it.

Anonymous said...

I hope you enjoy Paris! Your bread , as usual, looks great, and I agree with you entirely about being able to cook by being able to read! That's the way I learned! I'm not saying I'm the world's best cook but it's the only way I could learn. Jeannette.

Jude said...

I love fruit and nut studded breads like this.
Would be lovely to have a slice on a long flight :)

Sophie said...

I bet this smells heavenly as it bakes! I love anything with cranberries ;).

breadbasketcase said...

Jeannette,
Probably the world's best cooks do more than just read, but the rest of us have to make do with that technique.

Jude,
It was lovely! I was wishing for more on the return flight, but you can't have everything.

Sophie,
Yes, it did smell great--the cranberries and the slightly toasted smell of the walnuts, plus that great bread-baking aroma. I guess that's why they tell you to bake a loaf of bread before you have an open house when you're trying to sell your house.

javapot said...

Are you back yet?? Missing you and your posts!! :) Thanks for introducing this bread, it was really well worth the effort.

Mom2three said...

Stop by my blog to pick up your award! I love to see what you've created!

breadbasketcase said...

Mom2three,
Thank you! That is so sweet of you. That chocolate cake you baked looks absolutely delicious.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

just baked this bread for elliott last week. it really is one of our top favorites! i tried doing half raisin and half cranberry but oddlycouldn't taste the difference. the color from the cranberry soaking water however was lovely as in your photo.

breadbasketcase said...

Rose,
Yes, I love this bread--it was a great find, and, although I think of it as "airplane bread," I need to remember that I don't have to be planning a trip to make it.
I'm surprised that you even tinkered with this bread--it's so perfect as is, but I suppose that tinkering has yielded a lot of successes for you.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

it was elliott's suggestion which is rare so i like to take it once in a while!

breadbasketcase said...

Rose,
Always a good idea to take your husband's suggestions when it doesn't cost you anything--then they can't say you never listen to them.

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

exactly so!