Cranberry Pecan bread. Grumble grumble. Are we going to make every combination of fruit and nuts suspended in dough? Grumble. I really wish I could have been looking more forward to this bread, but it just didn’t happen. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it through another attempt to lodge fruit and nuts in bread. But in solidarity with my fellow bakers in the challenge, I submit my results.
This bread and I didn’t get off to a good start. This is probably my fault. I was tired of always using bread flour, so I used whole wheat flour to replace half of the bread flour. It wasn’t particularly fresh flour, which might have caused some problems. I mixed everything together and got a bit of a crumbly mess. No worries, add some water, right? So I did that and got a very tight little dough ball:
It was really hard to develop gluten in this little guy. After machine-kneading for about six minutes and still being nowhere near a windowpane, I added some more water. Too wet. Added some bread flour. Eventually I got it to a place where it would pass something like a windowpane test. Then I added the fruit and nuts. But they’d been soaking in water, so despite draining them thoroughly, a lot more liquid got added to the mix. Back to being an unkneadable mess. So I added a little more flour to get it all to come together. All told I kneaded things about 15 minutes, both by machine and by hand and I still ended up with a dough that was a little too sticky. Nevertheless, I let it rise:
And rise it did! Holy fruitcakes!
The post-risen dough had some noticeable gluten development and was actually very easy to work with using a little flour. I separated it out into a bunch of little balls and braided them together as per the instructions. (I didn’t really think this deserved to be a braided loaf, and if I had to do it over again I would definitely make a sandwich loaf like Joanne.) Grumble grumble.
The finished product looked pretty. The lower braid didn’t have the gluten strength to keep the smaller top braid aloft, but it didn’t look too terrible in the end:
The crumb was decent. A lot better than I expected given my trials with moisture in the bread. Heck, compared to how I started off with bread, this loaf was a pretty big accomplishment. Now, of course, my standards are higher — gotta love the hedonic treadmill! But reflecting on the taste, this bread just had too much cranberry. It dominated the taste of every other part of the bread, including the pecans and definitely the bread itself. I think the cranberries could easily be cut in half without any loss in flavor. In fact, letting the flavor of the bread come through would have been much better.
So there! Challenge done. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to bake English Muffins next weekend (friends in town). But hey, at least there are no fruits and nuts in the recipe!