Friday, February 27, 2009

Chamomille, Cherry & Pistachio Crown

I was in the mood for a flavorful and nutritious bread, something that would taste a bit like dessert but without the sugar or the fat, and I remembered Frank, my teacher at SFBI, telling us how much he loves chamomille bread.
Frank likes it with cranberries and walnuts but at the end of winter, I am feeling a bit over-cranberried to tell you the truth and even though I love walnuts too, I wanted a more delicate combination of flavors, especially because I didn't want any one taste to be so powerful that it would overwhelm the chamomille.
So in the end I settled for cherries and pistachios and it turned out to be a winning combination. Try it and let me know if you like it too. The chamomille can either be steeped in boiling water to make tea and the tea, when cooled down, is used instead in the dough instead of plain water, or you can grind some dry chamomille flowers if, like Frank, you happen to have some at hand and put them in the dough in powder form, or if you are like me, you just open two chamomille teabags (dry) and empty their contents in the flour. It works well either way.
I chose white whole wheat flour(made of hard white winter wheat) over the regular one because it is much lighter but still has all the nutritional benefits.
Also, I wanted an easy-going dough which could be mixed in the bread machine with minimum supervision (my standard workaround when time is scarce).


  • 235 g organic all-purpose flour
  • 156 g white whole wheat flour
  • 207 g water (+ 14 g which I added at the end of the mixing to make up for the dryness of the leaves)
  • 118 g liquid starter (@100% hydration)
  • 59 g dry cherries
  • 59 g raw pistachios
  • 0.5 g chamonille tea (dry contents of two tea bags) (I get mine at Trader Joe's) 
  • 9 g of salt

  1. Prepare and scale all the ingredients
  2. Quickly rinse the cherries and pistachios together under hot water, drain them well and pat they dry
  3. Put all the ingredients (except for the cherries and the pistachios) in the bread machine in the order prescribed by the manufacturer (in mine, the liquid ingredients must go first) and start the dough programme
  4. Towards the end of the mixing and before the machine prompts you to put in the dry ingredients, check the dough carefully and if necessary, add a tiny little drop of water (I added 14 g and it made the dough very pliable)
  5. At the beep, add the cherries and pistachios
  6. When the machine stops, I either take it out and finish kneading by hand then set it to rise in a dough bucket or, if it looks just fine, I let the rising proceed in the machine. That's what I did for this bread
  7. At the end of the cycle, take the dough out and pre-shape it in a rough ball
  8. Let it rest 10 to 15 minutes under a damp towel or a plastic sheet
  9. Shape it into a boule (ball) until the skin is tight all around
  10. If you want to make a crown like the one on the picture, put one of your elbows right on the center of the boule and press down until you reach the counter top, then widen the hole with your fingers until the crown fits around the base of a small bowl
  11. Then set the dough down for its second fermentation inside a clear plastic bag (blow in it before you tie it closed so that the plastic doesn't come to rest on the dough) and let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour (or until a slight depression remains when you press the dough with one finger)
  12. Turn on the oven (470 F/243 Celsius). If using a pizza stone, make sure that it is in the oven and place an empty metal pan underneath
  13. Score the bread. For this crown, I snipped all around the center with scissors and made tiny cuts around the outside sides of the loaf
  14. Pour 1 cup of cold water into the metal (make sure to stand back quickly so that you don't get the steam on your face or hands) and put the bread into the oven directly on the pizza stone
  15. Quickly spray water against the walls of the oven (remember to aim away from the lamp) and close the door. Turn the temperature of the oven down to 440 F/227 C). Spray two more times at 2 minutes interval within the next 5 minutes then do not open the door for 35 minutes
  16. After a total of 40 minutes, check the bread to see if it is browning too fast. If it is and it is not fully baked yet, tent some foil over the top and bake another 5 to 10 minutes
  17. If it looks ready, take it out of the oven. Using an instant thermometer, check that its internal temperature has reached 204 F/96 C. If it has, put the bread on a rack to cool
  18. If it hasn't, stick it back in the oven for a few minutes until its internal temperature reaches 204 F/96 C
  19. When it does, take it out and put it on a rack to cool
  20. Enjoy!

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