Monday, May 3, 2010

A Perfect Bread for California Spring (or Winter)

I'm tired of apples and bananas. I'm ready for cherries and berries, fuzzy peaches and tangy apricots. Real spring is almost here, so in the meantime I went back to my baking quest -- baking my way through Jim Lahey's My Bread cookbook. I took a small being hiatus while I was out of town with no oven, but now I have started in with this simple apricot almond bread.
True to Lahey's no knead method for this colorful loaf I combined 280 grams (2 cups + 2 TB) of bread flour, 20 grams (2 TB) of whole wheat flour, 1 1/3 cups chopped dried apricots (65 grams), 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp yeast in a large bowl. Instead of just water, for this recipe, Lahey instructs to blend 3 Tb of unsalted creamy almond butter (okay I used salted, I would have just no use for unsalted at all) and 1 cup + 2TB of water. I mixed the liquid into the dry ingredients and stirred with my hand until there were no lumps and the dough was wet and sticky. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and left it to sit and rise for 18 hours.
After the first rise I scraped the dough out onto my board and just barely tucked in the edges to make a sort of round ball. I placed the ball, seam side down, on a tea towel I'd heavily dusted with wheat bran with about 2 TB chopped almonds in the center. I sprinkled the top with more chopped almonds and covered the dough to rise for 2 more hours.
Meanwhile I preheated the oven to 450ยบ with my trusty 5 quart Le Creuset (flame orange just like Julia's) inside.
When the dough had risen I turned it, seam side down, into the preheated pot replaced the lid and set the pan in the oven to cook covered for 45 minutes, after which I uncovered the pot and allowed the bread to cook for another 10 minutes to color a rich golden (well maybe dark) brown.
After the bread had cooled I sliced it for toast for James. It's nice with just butter but for a real winner try this slightly tangy, nearly hearty bread with creamy brie or better yet a sharp stilton cheese drizzled with honey. Delish!

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