Sunday, July 09, 2017

Revisiting An Irish Bread Recipe

Enough years ago that I can't actually remember making the bread, I baked an apricot walnut bread using a book I found in Ireland when we visited in 2009. Recently I decided that it looked like a recipe I should make again, although this time I used some dates along with the dried apricots, plus I switched pecans for the walnuts. I also used almond milk for the mixed milk and water part.  I did use the olive oil this time and liked it! There is still sourdough and it is still braided, and it is still, perhaps, the best bread ever. Our daughter seemed to think so. It has a nice, tight crumb, makes lovely toast and is also fine eaten plain, just sliced off the braided loaf.

If you find yourself without the sourdough part, a quick version would be to substitute a packet (7 gm/2 oz) dry active yeast mixed with 1/4 cup barely warm water, then let to sit until the yeast 'blooms', about 10 minutes. Add another 3/4 cup lukewarm water and an extra cup of flour to the recipe and it should work just fine. For a bit more flavor, take that 'bloomed' water and yeast mixture, add the 3/4 cup lukewarm water and whisk in the cup of flour and let it sit, uncovered, on the counter overnight or in the fridge, covered, for 3-5 days, then use in the sourdough starter version of the recipe as if it were the sourdough starter, reducing the water to 3/4 cup.

 Or just follow the first part of the recipe for using dry yeast. Just make it and enjoy one of the best fruited breads around. By the way, the addition of fruit helps the bread stay fresher longer, so more breakfasts have toast.

By the way, in a week I should be posting a new bread for the Bread Baking Babes July challenge (so do come back then), but between now and then the posts might be sparse. Sweetie and I are doing an upgrade on the farmhouse bathroom, including a shower enclosure with glass door instead of a clawfoot tub. The plumber will have all the fun of trying to do new plumbing in a pre-1906 super narrow bathroom, but I think that the new shower, vanity and toilet, plus new flooring, paint, towel bars, lighting and mirror will make a much nicer bathroom for Grandma. It will, however, keep me busy being the carpenter's helper, etc. so, until I post again, stay safe, stay positive if you can, and if you want to toast me, do it with Champagne or bourbon.  XO, Elle

Irish Apricot and Walnut Bread
a variation of a recipe in Soups and Breads - The Irish Kitchen by Nuala Cullen
Makes one loaf

75 g/3 oz/2/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots
2 oz finely chopped dates (sorry no idea of g or cups)
75 g/3 oz/3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
450 g/1 lb/4 cups strong white flour
75 g/3 oz/3/4 cup coarse brown flour (I used whole wheat)
1 tablespoon or one sachet instant dried yeast (I used 1 cup sourdough starter and adjusted the milk/water)
325 ml/12 fl oz/1 ½ cups mixed milk and water
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 teaspoon salt

If using dry yeast: In a large mixing bowl mix together the flours, apricots, dates, nuts, salt and dried yeast.

Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and water, kneading and drawing in the flour from the sides until it is all incorporated. Knead for 2 minutes with a dough hook or 5-6 minutes by hand on a floured surface. Oil the mixing bowl, put in the dough, cover with plastic wrap/clingfilm and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

If using sourdough starter: In large mixing bowl (I used stand mixer bowl) put the sourdough starter and 1 ¼ cups mixed milk and water, slightly warmed. Stir or whisk to combine.

In another large bowl combine the flours, apricots, dates, and pecans. With dough hook in place and mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry mixture until the dough is soft and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead with the machine for 3-4 minutes. If you prefer you can combine the wet and dry ingredients as described in the first paragraph and hand knead. With sourdough starter you might need to have a longer rising time...I did.

Knock the air out of the dough and knead briefly before turning out onto a floured surface. Shape as desired. I did a three strand braid. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Again, this usually takes longer when you are only using sourdough starter, but the additional flavor that develops is well worth the wait. I also refrigerated my dough overnight before the first rise...even more flavor that way!

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and tap underneath. If a hollow sound results, the bread is cooked. If not, bake a little longer and test again. You could also shape the dough in two loaves and bake this in two 8 x 4 loaf pans.

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