Friday, November 29, 2013

Cranberry Bread

I had dough rising, and I was thinking about making some kind of cranberry bread ring or braid when someone posted a link to this Nutella bread in a Facebook group. I knew I had to try it with my
cranberry bread.

You can use whatever cranberry relish, jam, chutney, jelly, or whatever that you have on hand. Or, when cranberry season is over, use any other jam or similar product. Some might not work as well as others - it needs to be thick enough to stay in place in the bread and not ooze all over, but that's a trial-and-error sort of thing. The thinner the product is, the less you want to use, though.

If you're bound and determined to use a runny jam or jelly, you can mitigate the seepage by laying down a layer of cake or cookie crumbs that will absorb some of the liquid. It will change the texture of the filling, but at least you won't have a baking sheet full of oozy, burning, sugary goo.

I used a cran-raspberry jam that I made for Thanksgiving, and for this filling I added a little bit of instant pectin to thicken it even more.

Beware: if you make this once, you will make it again. Probably the next day. So make sure you've got plenty of extra jam on hand.

Cranberry Bread

For the dough:
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups (13 1/4 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
For the filling:
3/4 cup cranberry sauce (I used homemade cran-raspberry)
For finishing:
Egg wash (one egg beaten with one tablespoon water)

Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours.

Flour your work surface, heat the oven to 350 degrees, and have a baking pan and parchment sheet or silicone mat (preferred) on hand.

Divide the dough in half, form each half into a ball, and roll each ball into a circle about 9-10 inches in diameter. Place the first piece on the silicone mat and spread the cranberry sauce thinly and evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1 inch covered all around the outside.

Top with the second piece of dough.

Cut four slits in the dough - cutting all the way through the dough (but being careful not to cut the baking mat) as though you are cutting the dough into quarters, but not cutting the center section - try to leave a 2-3 inch uncut section in the center.

Make another four slits in the same way, centering them between your original four. Now, make eight more slits, centering them between the eight you already have.

Now, grab two adjacent strips of dough and twist them - either inward or outward, whichever feels more natural to you, as long as you're not twisting both in the same direction. Count how many twists you're making, so that you twist all the pairs the same number of times. Then just continue around the circle twisting each pair of dough strips the same way.

There are a couple tricks to keep in mind. First, make sure you've cut all the way through both layers of dough. I had a couple pieces that weren't quite cut and when I tried to twist, it got a teeny bit messy. Second, try to make all the cuts to the center even, so you end up with a pretty star pattern in the middle. Third, don't worry about it. When it bakes, it will look amazing, even if it is a little messy.

I rushed through the twisting a bit because my timing was off. Dinner was ready to go on the table so I didn't take as much time as I could have, but I was still very happy with the result. And next time, I'll have a better idea what I'm doing.

When you're done, slide the mat onto the baking sheet. Straighten the dough so it's a nice even circle, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it's doubled, about 45 minutes. If it doesn't seem like it's doubled, give it a poke it gently with your finger - if the indent remains, it's ready to bake.

Remove the plastic wrap, brush the dough with the egg wash, and bake until the bread is a deep golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Remove the dough from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.