Who doesn’t love warm, crusty, homemade bread? This artisan loaf is crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, dotted with sweet, dried, cranberries, soft, sweet apricots, and chopped roasted walnuts. Soo Easy, and DELISH!
I used my Dutch oven to give this bread a crusty exterior. However, if you’d like to try shaping the dough into a loaf on a baking sheet, you’re welcome to go ahead and do so. Except your loaves will be slightly less crusty, but they’ll still be very tasty!
3 cups bread flour
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 1/4 cup water (water temp 120-130 degrees)
1 tablespoon oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg beaten + 2 teaspoons water
Let’s Do It!
Soak the Raisins and Apricots:
Place the raisins and whole apricots in a small bowl and add water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 1 minute. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, until softened and plump. Drain the fruits, reserving the liquid in a 2 cup liquid measure. Add enough warm water to equal 1 1/4 cups, set aside, chop the apricots when cooled.
On a baking sheet, toast walnuts for 10-12 minutes, with the oven set at 350 degrees. When cooled, chop, and set aside.
Whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, cranberries, apricots, walnuts, yeast, zest, and salt together in the bowl of the stand-up mixer.
Mixing together drained fruit water, brown sugar, and oil in a liquid measuring cup, stir until sugar is dissolved.
Using the dough hook on your stand mixer, slowly add the warm, reserved water (120-130 degrees) to flour mixture and mix until the dough starts to form a shaggy mess, and the flour is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and stretch and fold (see note below) the dough, onto itself a few times, about 1 minute, adding as little of reserved flour as possible to keep it from sticking. The dough will be sticky, cover it with the inverted bowl and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes. This resting time is called autolyse, and also makes it less sticky and easier to work with.
With floured or wet hands, again stretch and fold the dough for another 2-3 minutes, then place the dough in an oiled container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Turn the dough to coat, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 2 hours, until a slight indentation remains when poked with a finger.
At this point, the dough should be doubled and still somewhat sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press down to flatten it slightly. Using the same technique as the folding step, stretch and fold one-quarter of the dough at a time, up and over the top to form a round, gently pulling each segment of dough out, until you get to the maximum stretch. Repeat, working your way around the dough and forming it into a ball until the interior is fully enclosed and you have a round with a little tension in it. Flip it over on a floured surface, so the seam is down, sprinkle with flour, and cover with a towel to rest for 20 minutes.
Preheat the Oven:
Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Place a Dutch oven with a lid, on top of a cookie sheet in the oven to heat. Using a cookie sheet keeps the breads’ bottom crust from burning.
If using only a sheet pan, turn down the temperature to 400 degrees for baking.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press down on it gently to flatten it slightly. Repeat the above technique for stretch and fold, for a final time. Place shaped dough on parchment paper, and dust with flour and towel to cover. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Just before baking, brush bread with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar. Using a lame, sharp knife or a straight-edged razor blade to give the bread three quick slashes, about 1/2″ to 3/4″ deep.
Your Dutch oven should be very hot by now. Carefully remove the Dutch oven, removing the lid, and transferring the parchment paper, with the loaf, smooth side up, into the pot, cover and place back in the oven on the baking sheet.
If baking on a cookie sheet, bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Rotating sheet halfway through baking.
Bake covered for 30 minutes, uncover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, bread should be deep brown and crusty, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205 degrees. Remove Dutch oven from the oven, turn the bread onto a rack. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.
*Stretch and Folding
Begining the process by reaching underneath the dough, and grabbing about one-quarter of the dough. Stretching this section of the dough, then fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. When folding segments of the dough, stretch them out to the point of resistance, then fold them back across the entire length of the dough mass. Working your way around the dough. This technique helps organize the dough’s gluten network, which allows it to hold on to gasses produced. The more complexly knit this network of gluten becomes, the more strength the dough has.
This dense, moist, easy- to- slice loaf, is ideal with flavored cream cheese or just a spread of butter!
Enjoy every bite!
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