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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Recipe Round Up: Cranberry Orange Almond Bread

Cranberry Orange Almond Bread

This bread is so simple to put together, so simple to modify, and doesn't require anything hard to find. I've been sharing some (not professional) videos on Instagram of mixing the dough and shaping it for the oven, if you are interested in seeing that process. Since this has no added sugar, the bread can be served with a dinner, as well as being used as a sweet bread with butter or peanut butter. We served this bread with a spicy pasta with sausage and tomatoes.

The only essentials about this bread are the flour, yeast, salt, and water. Everything else is customizeable. Switch out the nuts or dried fruit or zest for ones you prefer. Use something else entirely. For instance, today, I made a couple loaves with chopped basil, dried tomatoes from our garden last summer that we packed in oil, and roasted garlic (plus a little extra salt to make up for the sweetness/tartness of the tomatoes) in place of the almonds, orange zest and dried cranberries. Bread in general is rather forgiving, but especially in this case. This dough sits out on the counter for a minimum of 12 - 18 hours, but can be left to rise up to 24 hours with no ill effects. If it is going to be held longer than that, you may place the dough into the refrigerator, covered, and pull dough from it as needed.

Here are some other suggestions to use instead of the fruit and nuts listed here: Pine nuts, golden raisins, chopped, fresh rosemary; Cheese cubes (no, they won't go bad in the time on the counter), garlic, and red pepper flakes; Oil cured or dried olives, lemon zest, and oregano (I'd use about 2 cups of the olives, the zest from a couple lemons, and about 2 tablespoons of dried oregano or half a cup of chopped fresh oregano); or use the basil, dried tomatoes and roasted garlic I mentioned above.

6 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
1 teaspoon yeast
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries (sweetened or not)
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
zest from two oranges
3 cups water (the water does not have to be warm)

In a large bowl, place all the dry ingredients. Toss the cranberries, almonds, and orange zest gently with the flour mixture. Add the water, and stir vigorously for three to five minutes, until a soft, sticky dough is formed. Cover the bowl with either aluminum foil or plastic wrap and allow to rest and rise on the counter for 12 - 18 hours.

When it is time to bake, prepare a peel (or large plate or flat platter) with a good layer of cornmeal or semolina. Place a stone pan in the oven or grease a baking sheet and set aside. Set up the oven with two racks, with room for a pan underneath the top rack. Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Grasp half the dough with slightly dampened hands and shape into a rough round or oblong loaf. Place on the prepared peel. Do the same with the other half of the dough. Slash both loaves with a lamé or sharp knife at about a 45 degree angle to allow the bread to expand. Shake the peel sharply and, with a small jerk of the wrist, place the loaves on the stone in the oven or the prepared pan. Place a pan with about an inch of hot water in it on the lower rack. Bake the bread for around 40 - 45 minutes, until the dough is browned and crisp and fully cooked, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove bread from pan to cool completely on a rack. Slice and serve.

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