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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Bread may not be the healthiest thing to eat in large quantities, but at least it is easily made vegan, right? With the weather cooling way way way down, I feel like I am missing out if two days go by without baking something. Yea, I get something tasty in the process, but it also heats up the house a bit and makes it smell amazing.

This bread came about because I love cranberries and walnuts. I love them together and separately. I am a huge fan of cranberry sauce (only homemade.) I love both cranberries and walnuts in desserts. But I didn't want a dessert bread- I wanted a mostly savory (with a touch of sweetness) yeast based bread with a soft inside and crusty outside. I wanted a bread I could use for breakfast, lunch or dinner, that could be used in sandwiches, and I wanted it to contain cranberries and walnuts. I didn't want the inside to be very dense, glutinous or chewy- I thought the cranberries and walnuts would add some heft, so I wanted to keep it airy. My Google searches did not turn up anything that fit all my specific criteria in recipe form, so here is what I came up with! And bonus- there is NO KNEADING. (For those who hate kneading.)

Cranberry Walnut Bread (yeast-based, mostly savory, no knead)

3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 2/3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 teaspoons-2 tablespoons honey (to desired sweetness)
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil, but sunflower oil would work as well)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well to combine. The dough will be more of a batter than a bread dough (a little wet and sticky). It will be shaggy and hard to work with. This is ok, there is no kneading. Just make sure it is mixed as well as possible.

2. Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel and set it in a draft-free warm area. (TIP: the oven turned off with the light on is PERFECT for rising dough. It is just warm enough.) Let rise for four hours, or until doubled in size and quite bubbly.

3. Transfer the dough/batter to an ungreased loaf pan, it will probably deflate a bit as you do this. Cover with the wet kitchen towel and let it rise again, until the dough reaches slightly above the sides of the pan; this took about three hours for me.

4. Preheat the (now empty) oven to 450 degrees. Put the pan on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown.

5. When the loaf looks done, pull it out of the oven and immediately pop it out of the pan. The loaf needs to release moisture. Tap the bottom, it should feel cooked, not moist, and it should sound a bit hollow. Let it cool before slicing.

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