Aren’t I glad that when I decided on a name for this blog, it wasn’t something dessert oriented, like Sweet Ass or My Sugar Laden Dream; because if I had then I’d have a much harder time trying to explain why I’m so obsessed with bread right now. Specifically the making of bread. Probably has to do with the fact that I’ve got all the time in the world presently and the instant gratification from say baking a cake doesn’t exactly last all day. But this does; not only all day but the next morning when your dad’s banging out of the house panicking about what to breakfast on, and you present these on a fancy tray to him. Or the afternoon before, when your brother peeps through a hole from his hiding place, intrigued by the wonderful
alcoholic vapours smells coming from the oven.
This doesn’t need my repeating but I am a 100% newbie when it comes to baking with yeast, and it doesn’t bother me. In fact the more I get involved in researching this stuff, the more impressed and drawn I am by the pure sophistication and simplicity that is dough. Luckily, here in Taiwan, I’m surrounded, almost bombarded by inspiration constantly, where on my street alone, there are no less than 5 bakeries selling everything and anything my bread-loving soul wants. Having bitten into a pillowy soft sweet bread studded with cranberries, with a surprise cheesecake centre the day prior, I was inspired to create something subtly holiday-themed but with a more crunchy crust, also with dried cranberries.
Speaking of the convenience of living in Taiwan, I could not have chosen a better time to start being interested in making bread, because the traditional markets here have everything and more that I need. At the price of a few coins, and the likelihood of being hit by the insane traffic, you could buy just about any type of fresh or dried fruit, nut, flour and utensil.
I may be going on a brief hiatus again, as we’re going to be visiting Taipei for the next few days (squee!), should be a load of fun.
Cranberry and walnut bread (makes 2 25cm loaves)
250g bread flour
1tsp instant dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
62.5g lukewarm water
62.5g lukewarm milk
1 large egg
zest & juice of 1/2 orange
2 tbsp brandy (or other alcohol), optional
75g dried cranberries
Soak the dried cranberries in orange juice and alcohol (if using) for about 10 minutes. In the meantime I like to warm up the water and milk to about body temperature.
Put all of the remaining ingredients except walnuts in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed or knead by hand for about 10 minutes. The dough, when well kneaded will spring back when you press a finger into it. If it seems too dry add in some of the soaking liquid, so that it’s tacky but doesn’t stick to your hand. Add the drained cranberries, then the nuts and mix briefly until well distributed.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for 1~1.5hrs. When it’s doubled in size, turn out onto a floured surface and gently knock out the air. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, and roll each out into a rectangle (mine were about 15 x 20cm). Take the long edge further from you, and fold it onto the rest of the dough 1/3 of the way in. Pinch together the seam and do the same action again twice so that it’s rolled over 3 times. Place the loaves on a lined tray seam down, cover and proof again for about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F 10 minutes before the dough is done proofing. Prepare a tray of water to go below the bread in the oven for crustier bread with a soft interior. Slash the tops and/or brush with desired glaze and/or dust with flour if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden.