While trying to decide upon a bread to bake for the Thanksgiving Day table, I remembered a wonderful cranberry pecan bread that I had the pleasure of sampling some months ago. The bread was a creation of a good friend of mine, James McNamara, the talented head baker at Wave Hill Breads in Wilton, Connecticut. Cranberries, being a traditional staple of Thanksgiving here in New England, are what brought this bread to mind although, truth be told, cranberries are not one of my favorite fruits. Not being one to shy away from breaking with tradition, I decided to substitute cherries for the cranberries. The resulting bread is so good that it has me seriously rethinking my tendency to steer clear of bread ‘blend-ins’.
- 680 g King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
- 90 g Medium Rye Flour
- 455 g Water
- ½ Tsp. Instant Dried Yeast
- 15 g Salt
- 300 g Levain (mature sourdough starter, 100% hydration)
- 120 g Dried Cherries
- 120 g Pecans, roasted
The night before baking, the dried cherries are placed in a small container and just enough water is added to cover. The cherries are then allowed to hydrate overnight. In the interim, the pecans are broken into small pieces and roasted in a toaster oven at 350ºF until fragrant, about 10 minutes. The pecans are then allowed to cool.
The next morning, the cherries are strained. Both flours, water, yeast, and levain are added to the bowl of a stand mixer. The ingredients are then allowed to mix on the mixer’s lowest speed until they are all incorporated, about 2-3 minutes. The bowl is then covered with plastic wrap and allowed to rest for an autolyse period of 30 minutes. The contents of the bowl are then removed to a work surface and mixed by hand (Musings on Mixing…) for a few minutes, just until the dough starts to come together. Salt is then sprinkled on the dough and hand mixing is continued until the dough reaches medium development.
The dough is then transferred back into the bowl of the stand mixer and mixing on speed 1 is begun. The strained cherries and roasted pecans are slowly added to the dough and mixing is continued just until the add-ins are evenly distributed throughout the dough, about 1-2 minutes. The dough is then placed in a lightly oiled container, covered and fermented for two hours, folding the dough once, one hour into the fermentation.
After the two hour first fermentation, the dough is divided equally into two pieces and each piece is lightly pre-shaped into a round. After resting under a plastic sheet for 10 minutes, the pieces are tightly shaped into batards (Alternate Batard Shaping) and allowed to rest once again for 10 minutes under a plastic sheet. The batards are then shaped into a fendu, as shown below:
After allowing the loaves to proof, seam side down, for 2 hours at 74ºF, they are then flipped onto a transfer peel and then slid from the transfer peel to the oven peel so that they are now seam side up. The loaves are then loaded into the oven and baked at 425ºF for 40 minutes, the first 15 minutes under steam. Allow the loaves to cool before devouring.