For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you may have surmised that I am not a real big fan of heavily flavored breads. To me, the essence of bread baking is finding new ways to coax out the natural flavor of the wheat or whatever grain is being used. Save the ‘blend-ins’ for ice cream, cakes and cookies. One notable exception to this proclivity is pain Normand, an apple-flavored bread named for the apple-producing Normandie region of France. Apple cider and small pieces of dried apple are what give this bread its subtle apple flavor without any cloyingly sweetness.
The formula used here is a modification of the one described in Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. To my way of thinking, pain Normand is a specialty bread, more suited as an accompaniment to, say, an after-dinner fruit and cheese platter than as an everyday table bread, such as a baguette or a pain au levain. As such, I decided to halve the formula and produce two smaller loaves instead of the two large, 840 g loaves called for in the original formula. I also went with hard (alcoholic) cider rather than the recommended unpasteurized, unfiltered cider because I was looking for a less sweet, crisper flavor. For all you purists out there, I admit to using store-bought dried apples rather than drying my own fresh apples for expediency’s sake.
- 340 g Whole Foods 365 Organic All-Purpose Flour
- 45 g King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
- 90 g Water
- 155 g Hard (alcoholic) Cider
- 10 g Salt
- ½ Tsp. Instant Dried Yeast
- 130 g Mature Liquid (100%) Levain
- 65 g Dried Apples, finely minced
The water, cider and levain were whisked in a bowl until the mixture was thoroughly mixed and slightly frothy. To this mixture was added the flours, salt and yeast. A dough whisk was used to fully incorporate all the ingredients. The dough was allowed to rest for 20 minutes, after which time it was hand mixed until a medium consistency dough was achieved. The dough was then placed in the bowl of a stand mixer and the finely minced dried apples were added. The dough was then mixed with a spiral dough hook on speed 2 for 3 minutes, just until the apple pieces were fully incorporated into the dough. Although the apple pieces could be hand mixed into the dough, I find the stand mixer to be just a bit more convenient for this step.
The dough was then placed in a lightly oiled, covered container and allowed to ferment for 3 hours, halfway through which the dough was given a fold. The dough was then divided into two equal-weight pieces and each piece was loosely rounded. After resting, covered with plastic, for 15 minutes, the dough pieces were shaped into batards and proofed, either on a couche or in brotformen, for 2 hours. The loaves were then turned onto a peel, scored and baked at 450ºF for 30 minutes, the first 15 minutes being under steam.