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Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

We are near mid winter. It is cold. Produce at the store is looking sadder and sadder and spoils more easily when you get it home. Last week, the husband went to the store and brought home some beautiful looking apricots. They were a nice warm orange with blushes of red. They were also from South America and kinda firm. Oh, how bad can they be if they look so good? It turns out, they can be pretty bad. Not bad as in spoiled. No, they were just so sour and hard that it was impossible not to spit them out. So, I was left with almost a dozen apricots that no one wanted to eat. What to do?

Well, make bread, of course. My original inspiration for this recipe is the recipe for blueberry schiacciata from Rustic Italian Food, but, in the end, the bread I made probably does not resemble the one in the book at all. Still, it provided the inspiration for me that I needed.

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I wanted something like a fruity foccacia bread that we could eat for breakfast; not too sweet like a sticky bun, but nice and substantial, you know, to start the day off right. The recipe starts wih a sponge, in which I used my sourdough discard from feeding my monsters. You could easily make this bread without it (directions below).

The great thing about this recipe is that from start to eating, it only took 3.5 hours, which is pretty quick for a yeast bread. The rising times are short, each less than an hour, but the oven spring of this dough is really and truly impressive.

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The dough looked like this when I put it in the oven. It barely comes over the top of the rim of the pan, so it’s maybe an inch thick.

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When the bread came out of the oven it looked like this. Whoa! What happened in that oven? I don’t know. What I do know is that this bread was fabulous. The juices from the berries bake into a nice slightly sticky glaze. The sugar that was generously sprinkled on top before baking was caramelized and slightly crunchy. The apricots remain a little firm, but tender enough to bite through easily and their sourness has turned into a pleasing tartness that is balanced by the sweet, crunchy sugar. It can only be called a flatbread in the sense that its width and length are greater than the thickness, but since we all had a tough time getting our mouths open big enough to take a bite, I think that other flatbreads might be a little offended if we called it that. That’s why we’ve named it Fruit Studded Not Flatbread.

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Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

This makes a huge loaf of bread: 12 by 18 by 2.5-3 inches high. You can make a smaller one by cutting the recipe in half and using a smaller pan. Be warned that the syrup may run over the sides of the pan and into your oven. For me, it just joins countless other little spots on the floor of the oven, but if you don’t want this, put a piece of foil under the pan to catch the drips.

Depending on the size of your portions, this could yield 12 humongous portions, 20 average sized portions, or 30 snack-type portions.

475g 100% hydration sourdough starter OR 250g water and 225g bread flour
25g water
195g eggs or 4 large
10g or 1 tablespoon osmotolerant instant yeast
80g sugar
200g bread flour
500g all purpose flour
12g or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
120g or 1stick unsalted butter, softened
Grated zest of one medium orange
Extra water, if needed
8-12 small apricots or other stone fruit, halved and pitted
1-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or other berries
Extra sugar for sprinking on top- I used about one half cup, but you’ll want to adjust according to the sweetness of your fruit

Equipment: spatula, stand mixer, rolling pin, 12 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet

With a spatula, mix your sourdough starter (or the alternate ingredients) in a large mixing bowl with the water, eggs, yeast, 80g of sugar, and the 200g bread flour. It should be the consistency of pancake batter (see photo below). Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly.

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Add the all-purpose flour, salt, soft butter, and orange zest to the sponge and mix on low-medium until the dough is nice and smooth. It should be a soft dough. If the mixer sounds strained, it is too stiff. Add extra water, one tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough is soft and smooth, but not sticky. It might be tacky, but it should not stick to your hands when you touch it. The dough should have cleaned the sides of the bowl really well.

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Leave the dough in the bowl and place in your warm spot for 30-60 minutes. It should be well-expanded, but perhaps not quite doubled.

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Roll out your dough on a sheet of parchment paper that is about the same size as your half sheet pan. Place the dough, with its parchment onto your pan. Press the apricots into the dough firmly. Scatter the blueberries over the dough and, using your fingers, press those firmly into the dough as well. You want to get the fruit as close to the bottom of the pan as possible to discourage them from rolling off during the rising and baking process.

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Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in your warm place for 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, place a baking stone, if you have one, in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Before baking, sprinkle the fruit and dough generously with granulated sugar. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check on the bread after 15 minutes. Turn the pan around to encourage even baking. If there is a lot of liquid pooling on the top of the dough and you happen to have a convection oven, lower the heat to 325 and turn on the convection fan for the last 15 minutes of baking. If not, try moving the pan to a higher rack in the oven to encourage the liquid to bake away.

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When you take the pan out of the oven, transfer the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Eat some immediately.

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Pizza for Dinner

Today, I am running short on time, but I did manage to make the TwD recipe for dinner tonight, Pizza with Onion Confit.

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The dough was easy to make. I made the sponge at 1 pm and added the discard from my stiff sourdough starter. Then, I got the onion confit cooking.

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After an hour and a half, it was nicely bubbly.

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At 3pm, I mixed the final dough. Around 4pm, I turned on the oven with my baking stone inside and started getting the remainder of the topping ingredients together.

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The dough was ready to be shaped at 4:30. I made just half of the recipe of onion because I didn’t want to overwhelm the boys with it. Then, I added salami, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, and crumbled feta.

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15 minutes after I slid the first one in the oven, we were ready to eat. It was delicious. I think my topping mix leaned heavily to the salty side of things and, as long as I am being really honest, I found the crust to be a tad tough. However, it was really nicely crunchy and stiff on the bottom. I liked the confit. It was a nice alternative to tomato sauce, which has been banned from my diet. Overall, I am not sure I could say this was the best pizza I have ever had or made, but it was a good dinner, so you’ll hear no complaints from me. You can find the recipe here. The recipe made two very nicely sized pizzas, so I will be having it again for lunch tomorrow. Cold, because I will be out of the house. I wonder how it will taste then?

Day 4: St. Lucia Buns

Today is St. Lucia Day. You can read about who Saint Lucia is here. It’s kind of a gruesome story, as many of the stories of saints and martyrs are, but they certainly make for interesting dinner table conversation. A celebration of light seems to be the overarching theme of the day and the classic bread associated with it are these saffron scented buns.

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I first made them a few years ago and the husband fell in love with them. They are not too sweet and the saffron gives them a little savoriness and a wonderful color. I am not as big a fan of saffron as he is, so I like them less, but this year might be different. This year, I really only had a pinch of saffron left in the jar. I knew it would not be enough for the typical recipe, but at 8 in the morning, I was not prepared to go looking for it around town.

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That’s when I decided to go all out and just make up my own recipe. This recipe has more egg and the addition of sourdough starter. These both help to soften the dough to make it easier to shape and to keep the baked buns soft longer. I also used a helping of my rummy fruit mix, which is why they have more colorful bits than usual.

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All in all, I thought that they turned out very well. The one I ate that was still hot from the oven was marvelously soft, fluffy, sweet, and had just the right amount of saffron flavor for me. The rolls were not as yellow as I would like because of the tiny amount of saffron I used, and the husband definitely would have liked more saffron flavor. But, even with the tiny amount that I used, the flavor and aroma of saffron was definitely there. Saffron is a potent spice!

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You’ll notice in the recipe below that I give a wide range of saffron amounts. If you’ve never had saffron before, I suggest you start small, unless you’re super adventurous, and work your way up. The sourdough starter is optional, but I really do think that it helps to keep breads soft and moist longer. With all the other flavors in the dough, it is hardly noticeable.

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These pretty and tasty buns have become a tradition in our house, even though there is not a single scandinavian bone in our bodies. Good food knows no boundaries, right?

Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter my give-away!

St. Lucia Buns

Makes 24 average sized buns

345 g (1.5 cups) milk
110 g (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4-1 teaspoon Saffron, depending on your tastes
225 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
10 g (4 teaspoons) SAF gold osmotolerant yeast
100 g (2 large) eggs
260 g (1 cup) 100% hydration sourdough starter(optional, but if you have it, I highly recommend it for its ability to keep breads from going stale right away)
850 g (6 cups) all purpose flour plus up to 70 g (1/2 cup) more
10 g (2 teaspoons) salt
100g (2/3 cup) golden raisins
100 g (2/3 cup) mixed rummy fruit and citrus mix or use any combination of candied citrus or other dried fruit that you like

1 egg, beaten and mixed with 1/2 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons, approximately, of Swedish pearl sugar

Heat milk in a small pot or microwave until bubbles just begin to form around the edges. Pour into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl. Add butter and stir until the butter is melted. Crumble the saffron between your fingers and add to the warm milk mixture. Then, stir in the sugar. By this time, your milk mixture should be just slightly warm. Just check to make sure that it is not over 115 degrees before you go on.

Sprinkle yeast over the milk mixture and stir. Let stand for a minute or two. Then, add the eggs and sourdough starter and stir for a minute. It does not have to be well blended. Add the flour and salt and stir until a rough dough forms. Knead by hand or in your mixer on low until the dough is nice and smooth and not sticky. This could take up to ten minutes. You may need to add several tablespoons of flour to achieve this texture. Add the fruit in two additions and knead gently until evenly distributed.

Set the dough in a greased bowl or container, cover tightly, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 3 hours.

Divide the dough into half, and set one half aside in the covered container while you shape the first half. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and roll into 12 inch long ropes. Curl each end towards the middle, forming an S shape. Push one golden raisin into the center of each side of the S. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet with 2 inches between each bun. Repeat the shaping with the other half of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy and just about doubled. This will take 2-2 1/2 hours.

When the buns are almost fully risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in the oven so that they have an even amount of space around them. Get your egg wash ready. When the buns are fully risen, brush each one gently with egg wash and sprinkle pearl sugar on top.

Bake the buns for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans and switching them on the racks after 20 minutes. When they are done, they should be lightly browned and sound hollow when you tap one. Try to let them cool until just warm before you have one, but good luck with that!

Off with a Bang!

Last week, I talked about how I was feeling a little sluggish in the holiday cheer department. Well, that all ended on Saturday when I quite literally woke up to a loud Bang! I was in that half asleep state that happens right before you fall back asleep or begin tossing and turning. I think I was well on my way back to sleepyland, actually, when I heard an extremely loud Bang! It sounded kind of like someone had dropped a book on the floor, and I felt a moment of annoyance at the boys for waking me up on my only day of the week to sleep in as late as I wanted, when I suddenly remembered something. I shot out of bed and down the stairs as fast as I could go. Here is part of what I found.

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There were two containers, actually. By the time I thought to take a photo, I had already emptied the other one into a mixer bowl. This one in the picture is not the one that made the noise. It was the other, much more airtight, and difficult to open and close container, that burst open with a bang because of the pressure that had built up from the rising dough inside it. Believe it or not, these containers were only one-third full when I put the tops on them Friday night. I never thought that they would overflow their containers, but I was wrong. I am just so, so relieved that it did not throw itself on the floor. Then, I might have cried. As it was, it had toppled over, but not on the floor, and I was able to salvage it and move on to the next stage.

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Oh, I am sorry, I still haven’t told you what this is! Silly me. It was the first dough for this year’s first batch of panettone. You can read more about my love of panettone here. For several years, I have been using a recipe from The Bread Bible that we have been fairly happy with. It’s not the best panettone I have ever eaten, but it was good. However, my goal for this year was to make a panettone with my sourdough monsters in the traditional way.

I found this recipe by Susan of Wild Yeast and I decided this would be a good one to try for two reasons: 1. All the ingredients were listed by weight and 2. She clearly knows what she is doing with sourdough. I began on Thursday, building up my sourdough starter by keeping it warm and feeding it more regularly. I thought this might take a few days, so I was kind of surprised when my starter was able to triple itself in four hours within a day of beginning this regiment. I had twice as much starter as I needed, so what did I do? I made two batches, of course! Hence, the two containers that I talked about earlier.

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After getting over my surprise wake up on Saturday, I got to work, measuring and mixing. The final dough came together really nicely. Look at it. It’s wonderfully stretchy and loose and silky. It was just a gorgeous, gorgeous dough. To one batch, I added chestnuts, some of my rum-soaked fruit, and the traditional fiori di sicilia. To the other batch, I added chestnuts (I did a quick survey of the family and they all wanted chestnuts, surprise!), a tiny bit of rum-soaked fruit, candied citron, grated orange zest, and vanilla bean seeds.

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While the dough rose, I busied myself with other Christmas-y activities and watched. In 6 hours, the first batch had tripled its size. A few minutes after I put it in the oven, I was surprised to see that it had really expanded a lot in the oven! It was a good two inches above the rim and looked fantastic!

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It was tricky to take the breads out of the oven and hang them upside down. I am wimpy and always afraid of burning myself. The husband helped me and they turned out fine. I was not as lucky with the second batch. With the second batch, I chose to use Susan’s glaze and, Oh My, did this batch expand in the oven! Some of the glaze and a few almonds slid off and there was a lot of dough hanging off the sides of one of the loaves. One loaf had a little accident when I tried to hang it; the top fell off! Oh well.

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I still have three wonderful looking panettone to show for all my efforts and the fourth one was devoured rather quickly. Hot out of the oven, the bread was a little doughy, but full of wonderful vanilla and citrus flavors. A little while later, when it was cool, it was not doughy at all, but very moist. And the texture! It was softer and fluffier than a pillow! We all loved the glaze from Susan’s recipe, so I would definitely make that again. It added a little crunchy sweetness that was a great texture contrast with the soft insides. How does it compare to the gold standard? Friends and fellow lovers of panettone, it is close. Really close. It might be just as good, and maybe even a tad better. I am beyond excited and over the moon about this recipe. I can’t wait to make it again and I think it may have to be soon, because these three loaves are not going to last long in this house. But, first, I have a few more things I need to get done.

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Yesterday, in honor of Chanukah, we had our annual meal of potato latkes, applesauce, and smoked salmon. The holiday spirit has finally arrived in our house, our hearts, our minds, and our tummies! This post is just the beginning! For the next week and a half I am planning a series of posts that I am dubbing The Twelve Days of Christmas/Holiday Breads, according to me, of course. Most of the things I have planned to feature are breads, beginning with today’s panettone, but there might be one or two cookies that might sneak in here and there. I hope you will join me. There might be a little giveaway in there somewhere, too! Oh how I love the holidays!

Winding Down

After about a month of baking, cooking, and eating apples almost everyday, we are finally nearing the end of the apples we picked. I have less than 20 left in the fridge and they will likely languish there for a little while. Oh, yes, I have plans to make some Cranberry Apple Jam now that cranberries can be found in the stores, but not for a couple of weeks, probably.

But, before I declare a final end to Apple Frenzy, I had to try out the Apple Cinnamon bagels I mentioned in my last post. These were on my mind since I wrote those words, and I knew I would not be able to stop thinking about them until I actually made them. Now, these were not made using the recipe from Baking with Julia. These are actually sourdough bagels, based on a recipe from The La Brea Bakery Cookbook. I opted to make these because, of course, I had to feed the sourdough starters.

The recipe got divided in half to make 9 everything bagels with the plain half. With the other half, I added some half dehydrated apples and half a Tablespoon of cinnamon. There were a lot of apples, so the dough was really chunky, but I forged ahead. They turned out just fine.

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The husband was excited to see me making bagels again so soon after last week’s batch. I told him not to get used to it, but really, these are so good, that I may just have t o make them much, much more often.

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The boys and I ate one of these while it was still warm and crusty from the oven and it was divine! Crusty, with a slight chewiness, and a little bit sweet from the apples. It was bagel heaven.

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And I think that might be the end of the road for the Apple Frenzy posts. It was a lot of fun here. I sure hope you enjoyed it! Next week, crafting will make a return to the blog with my Rhinebeck report. I’ll be back with lots of yarny goodness, I hope. Have a great weekend, everyone!