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Rustic Cranberry Loaf

Rustic Cranberry LoafThere's just something deliciously comforting about a rustic loaf of bread, especially when it's loaded with sweet-tart dried cranberries and toasted pecans.

Recipe Ingredients:

Sponge:
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 cup lukewarm water - 65°F (18.3°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)
Small pinch instant yeast

Dough:
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water - 65°F (18.3°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup pecans

Cooking Directions:

  1. For Sponge: Dissolve yeast in water and stir in flour. Mix until incorporated. Allow to rise at room temperature for 12 hours, or overnight.
  2. Toast pecans in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow nuts to cool.
  3. For Dough: Incorporate dry ingredients (flours, salt and yeast) in bowl of 5 quart stand mixer. Reserve 1/4 of the liquid and add the rest to the bowl. Also add the risen sponge mixture to the bowl. Mix ingredients with dough hook on slow speed until ingredients are incorporated. Dough should be fairly sticky. Increase speed of mixer to medium and mix until dough begins to smooth out and become less sticky and more resilient, 5 to 8 minutes. Slowly add the rest of the water to the dough, and continue mixing until the dough is resilient again and does not break easily when stretched, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. The dough will be very wet.
  4. Pour it onto a floured surface and stretch it into a rectangle. Distribute the cranberries and pecans evenly over the dough. Roll up dough like a jelly roll to incorporate nuts and cranberries, then fold the dough in thirds.
  5. Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Remove the dough to a lightly floured table and gently stretch it into a rectangle. Fold the dough in half 3 to 4 times, until the dough is noticeably stronger and more resilient. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  7. Gently remove the dough to a lightly floured table. Divide the dough in half or in quarters, and place on a heavily floured board or cloth. Let rise covered for 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven with a baking stone, if available, to 450°F (230°C). Steam the oven by spraying in water with a squirt bottle or throwing ice cubes into a pan placed in the bottom of the oven. A lot of steam in the oven is important for the bread to rise properly in the oven. Invert the loaves so that the floured side is on top; this is how the bread gets its decorative flour pattern. Place loaves directly on the baking stone, or on a sheet pan, and steam the oven again. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (205°C), and bake for 35 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the loaves. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and register an internal temperature of 200°F (93.3°C). For a thicker, crisper crust, allow the bread to bake an additional few minutes.

Makes 24 servings.

Recipe and photograph courtesy of Cranberry Marketing Committee.