Crusty Pecan Raisin Cider Bread
Just yesterday, I saw a photo of a piece of crusty peasant bread with a big smear of strawberry jam on it. The jam caught my attention first. I make loads of jam with fresh berries every summer just like my Fountain Avenue grandmother did. It makes a simple piece of bread something special and turns an ordinary pb&j into something extraordinary. But back to the bread. For some reason, this picture stopped me in my tracks. When I found the link to the recipe, I knew I had to make the bread that very day! I have never been much of a bread maker, but oh to have an artisanal loaf such as this emerge from my very own oven!
The original recipe from Alice D’Antoni Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen was a cranberry walnut bread with white wine thrown in for good measure. I decided I would take the framework of this incredible-looking bread and make it my own. After a little pondering, I came up with a raisin-pecan spin flavored with apple cider and a touch of cinnamon. To my great joy, the end result was everything I hoped it would be based on that first mouth-watering photograph. And the best part is that it was really quite easy!
Crusty Pecan Raisin Cider Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 120 degrees)
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup apple cider, room temperature
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamom
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus about half a cup more for kneading on counter)
1 cup whole wheat flour
In a large bowl, combine yeast and water. Stir to blend into a liquid. Add room-temperature buttermilk and apple cider, salt, cinnamon, and sugar. Mix well. Add steel cut oats, raisins, and pecans. Slowly add flour, white and wheat, mixing with a wooden spoon. The dough will be thick and it will eventually be easier to get in there and mix with your hands. Knead in the bowl for about three minutes.
Then, turn onto a floured surface and knead for an additional five minutes or so, adding a little of the reserved flour, as needed, to prevent sticking. Shape into a large ball. Coat your mixing bowl with oil and place the dough ball back in. Cover and let rise for a couple of hours or until dough has doubled in size.
Punch down and knead for an additional five minutes. Shape into a loaf–round, oblong, or whichever shape you prefer. With a sharp knife, make a few slits across the top. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or, if you have one, a baking stone or lightly-greased cast iron skillet. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes. If toward the end of the cooking time the bread is getting too brown on the top, cover lightly with foil. Conversely, if you want the crust to brown some more, heat the oven to 425 degrees for the last five to seven minutes. Just take a peek towards the end of the cooking time as all ovens vary a bit.
Let the bread cool for 30 minutes before slicing. Using a sharp, serrated knife, turn the bread on its side to slice. This will help prevent tearing of the beautiful, crusty top.
Leftovers are delicious toasted and served with a jam of your choice or butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.