Sunday, March 20, 2016

Cranberry-walnut sourdough is delicious (and other lessons learned)

I've been making lots of sourdough lately. My favorite had dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Cranberry walnut sourdough #2

Rather than dwelling on individual loaves, this post summarizes what's worked and what hasn't lately. As usual, the sourdough is based on Josey Baker's recipes.

How much fruit & nuts?

When I make a loaf that's just walnuts, I usually use 1 cup (or more) of toasted walnuts. When the loaf is fruit and nuts, I use 3/4 cup of toasted nuts and 1/2 cup of dried fruit.

To soak or not to soak?

If you have great dried fruit, I don't think you need to soak it. If you do soak, 20 minutes in hot water seems sufficient, but be sure to drain the fruit really well.

I didn't soak the cranberries the first time I made cranberry-walnut bread, and the bread was still delicious. A big part of their deliciousness was that the cranberries were great. I think I got them at Berkeley Bowl.

Interior of cranberry-walnut loaf #1

The second time I made cranberry-walnut bread, I used cranberries from Trader Joe's. They were fine but not great, so I didn't love the bread quite as much. I soaked them and should have drained them for longer, but the end result was still a very nice bread. You can see from the pictures that the cranberries in loaf #1 were larger and more deeply colored. They just had a lot more flavor than those in loaf #2.

Interior of cranberry-walnut loaf #2

In a raisin-pecan loaf that I made, I soaked and drained the raisins, both for longer than I did the cranberries. That worked out well, but I don't think you need to soak the fruit for that long.

When to add the fruit & nuts

I used to add walnuts just after mixing in the flour. That's probably the easiest way to go, but the dough is discolored by the walnuts: near the walnuts, the dough is purplish, as you can see in my other posts about walnut sourdoughs.

Another option I tried is adding the walnuts and fruit during shaping. This worked OK, but the distribution wasn't very good, and you have no possibility of reshaping if you mess it up.

Take my raisin-pecan sourdough. I spread its dough out flat, then spread out the soaked raisins and toasted pecans, and then rolled it all up. But the dough had no surface tension, so I ended up folding it into thirds to make it a little more likely rise and get a nice ear. 

Raisin-pecan sourdough

As you can see from the picture above, the shape is a little odd, but I did get that ear. Unfortunately, it was along one of the seams (at the top of the picture), not where I diagonally scored the bread. Also, raisins peeked out of the scores. Not a good look.

Inside the raisin-pecan sourdough

The distribution of raisins and nuts was uneven, but not as bad as I feared.

With both cranberry-walnut sourdoughs, I mixed in the fruit and nuts after my last fold-and-stretch knead. This wasn't as hard as I feared.

The winner: cranberry-walnut sourdough #1

The loaf had no ear (my boules never do), but the bread was delicious, with the mixins well distributed throughout.

Delayed baking and flying roofs

I often don't bake the bread the same day that I start it. Instead, I let it rise in the refrigerator, so I can bake it when I need it, and the bread can gain depth of flavor. In my house, we like sourdough.

For my last couple of batches, I created enough dough for two loaves. One loaf I shape immediately (to either bake right away or put in the fridge for a day or two), and the other I put in the fridge, unshaped. The next day I'll shape the second loaf.

I recently was having lots of flying roofs—the top crust would separate from the bread below it. The cause seemed to be taking the shaped loaf out of the fridge before I was ready to put it in the oven. Once I changed to baking cold dough, right out of the fridge, the flying roofs went away.

Sesame sourdough looked good on the outside

The sesame sourdough was my most recent victim of a flying roof.

Flying roof (not as bad as some I've had)

Baking pans & form factor

For boules, I use either the bare cooking stone with a large, squat stock pot on top or (more recently) a huge dutch oven.

Large, squat stock pot

The dutch oven is a little scarier, but it worked out really well when I somehow used a cloth to maneuver the dough into it, as opposed to when I used a parchment paper sling. (The parchment paper made the loaf's edges wavy and was hard to remove, since it got brittle.) I need to try the dutch oven again.

Huge dutch oven

For longer loaves, I used to use the same stone + stock pot combo as for a boule, but sometimes I'd misposition the pot, and the edge of the loaf would be a little weirdly shaped. Last time, I used my long, low, 5-quart Le Creuset pan. I was afraid it wasn't tall enough, but it worked out great.

5 quart Le Creuset worked great for a longer loaf

For really long loaves, I use the King Arthur covered baker. It's a handy form factor, but the crust isn't as nice. I baked my most recent plain sourdough in the covered baker, so it'd be easier to share with my parents.

Just before going into the oven.
This dough was a bit wet and overproofed;
slashing did not go well.

The crust looks nice, but I don't like it as much

Inside the end piece