Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cranberry-Hazelnut Whole Wheat Bread

I don't know how advanced the season is in other parts of the country but here in the Pacific Northwest, fall is most certainly on its way. The leaves are starting to turn and the nights are wonderfully crisp (although to be honest, they are also sometimes extremely wet!).
This being North America, cranberries - which had been temporarily shunned for their summery cousins - are back in our thoughts, bringing with them a craving for other fall fruit and nuts. When I was a child, my brothers and Ì spent every Sunday at my grandparents' house in Normandy, playing hide-and-see in the old barn where my grandfather used to raise ducks, feeding wheat berries to the chickens, petting the bunnies which (sadly but unbeknownst to us at that time) would later turn into delicious "civets" (fragrant rabbit stews which my grandmother would serve with buckwheat crepes) and, in the fall, filling our pockets with hazelnuts. Since no cranberries were to be had in France when I was growing up, I pretty much discovered them when I moved to this country and never thought of pairing them with hazelnuts until I visited Boulangerie La Rémy in Quebec last June. Even though visions of cranberries and hazelnuts have been episodically dancing in my head ever since, it took an email from Eric at the Fresh Loaf for me to actually accept the fact that summer is over and give it this bread a shot. I have almost none of my usual baking tools here at my kids' house, no books, no baskets (I used towel-lined colanders) not even a little strainer to dust the loaves with flour (which explains their rather floury look as I ended up using too much flour and having to wipe it off). But I have a 2007 issue of The Baking Sheet newsletter which features whole grain recipes and I have levain, thanks to my friends Gerry and Larry from Tree-Top Baking (a small bakery located on Whidbey Island which makes superior bread and delicious pastries). Again thanks to Gerry and Larry, I also have a blend of freshly milled whole grain flours in my usual proportion of 45% wheat, 45% spelt and 10% rye to feed my adopted levain. There are a few great natural food markets around here where I can pretty much find in bulk whatever grain or flour I want. But I opted for wheat, figuring that spelt's delicate flavor would be masked by the robust taste of the toasted hazelnuts and that rye and hazelnuts would fight for dominance instead of complementing each other.Since I really like to use whole grains whenever possible, I went for a 65% whole wheat dough. The resulting bread is very flavorful and, hopefully, quite nutritious. We all loved it. We actually packed some to take with us on a hike and found it to be the perfect accompaniment to a hard cheese at the end of a long trail in the deep forest. We munched on it while sitting on a fallen tree trunk and watching the sun play on the pebbles at the bottom of a little lake. Pure bliss!
(The following recipe is loosely based on the Walnut Currant Bread featured in The Baking Sheet, Vol. XVIII, no. 1, Winter 2007) Ingredients For the levain 114 g whole wheat flour 114 g water, at cool temperature 30 g firm levain (hydration: 65%) (I used whole-grain levain as explained above but if all you have is liquid levain, you can use it instead. Just adjust the water amount accordingly) For the final dough all of the levain 340 g whole wheat flour 241 g unbleached all-purpose flour 455 g water, at cool temperature 14 g salt 125 g dried cranberries (mine were slightly sweetened) 100 g hazelnuts (roasted in the oven and peeled by rubbing them together in a kitchen towel), cooled
Method (this bread is made over two days) The night before baking day Combine flour, water and levain, mix well, cover and leave to ferment overnight (or for up to 12 hours) On baking day
  1. Combine all of the levain with the remaining flours and the water and mix (since I don't have a mixer here at my kids' house, I mixed by hand) until the flours are thoroughly hydrated
  2. Cover the bowl and let rest for 20 minutes (autolyse)
  3. Add the salt and mix briefly or until the dough is smooth and cohesive (I used the stretch and fold method of hand mixing)
  4. Cover the bowl and let rest for 30 minutes
  5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and, wetting or flouring your hands (depending on the dough consistency), lightly pat it into a rectangle
  6. Sprinkle the cranberries over it and using a metal bench knife, fold it like a business letter over the cranberries
  7. Pat the dough out into a rectangle again, sealing in the cranberries and sprinkle with the roasted hazelnuts
  8. Using a metal bench knife, fold the dough again as a business letter but this time in the opposite direction to seal the hazelnuts in
  9. Put the dough back in the bowl and let it rest, covered for another 30 minutes
  10. After 30 minutes, take the dough out and give it another business letter fold on a well-floured surface
  11. Brush the extra flour off and return to the bowl and repeat the rising and folding twice more
  12. After 4 folds and 2 ½ hours of rising time, heavily flour two bannetons or colanders lined with linen towels
  13. Turn the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two (since I had different size colanders, I divided the dough roughly in two thirds and one third)
  14. Pre-shape into rounds, let rest covered 10 minutes and shape into balls
  15. Be careful not to tighten the balls too much or the nuts and berries will tear the surface of the skin of the dough
  16. Turn the loaves upside down into the prepared bannetons or colanders, cover them well and let them rise for 2 to 2 ½ hour
  17. About half-an-hour before the loaves are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450° F/232° C with a baking stone in it (having no baking stone here, I preheated the oven with a thick metal baking sheet on the middle shelf and a metal pan on the bottom)
  18. Flip the loaves out of the bannetons onto a piece of parchment paper, gently brush off the excess flour (preferably with a pastry brush if available), slash in desired pattern and use a peel (I used another baking sheet) to load them into the oven
  19. Pour a cup of cold water in the prepared metal pan and close the oven door
  20. After 20 minutes, turn the loaves around and continue baking for another 20 minutes, removing the metal pan if there is any leftover water
  21. After 40 minutes' total baking time, turn off the oven and leaving the oven door slightly ajar (I used a wooden spoon to prevent it from closing completely), let the loaves dry out for about 10 minutes
  22. Take them out of the oven and set them on a rack to cool.
The Cranberry-Hazelnut Whole Wheat Bread goes to Susan's Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.


  1. Wow this looks good... i have stock of hazelnut and cranberries which can be put to good use now

  2. I love hazelnuts too, we used to make escargot with garlic, parsley butter with ground hazelnut flour!
    Have you settled in the Pacific Northwest now?
    Fall is coming soon here, I miss summer for tomatoes and a fresh farm vegetables, but the heat you can have!

    Cheers and happy baking!



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