Last week’s Walnut Loaf totally boosted my bread baking confidence. In fact, so much so that I am breaking up with my weekly Seeduction bread from Whole Foods. The challenge, novelty, and satisfaction of making my own bread is too hard to resist now that I get to spend more time at home on weekends.
This weekend I tried another recipe from Dan Lepard, a twist on the beloved cinnamon raisin bread. His Apricot Wheatgerm Loaf is studded with juicy chopped apricots with a moist tender crumb created by pureed medjool dates and whole milk yogurt. Since the loaf was baked, I could not resist from stopping by for a quick sniff of its sweet aroma every time I walked by. That smell of cinnamon is all that I adore about baking fruit bread. It also doesn’t hurt that this bread is drop dead gorgeous too with matching great taste!
I learned my lesson from last weekend’s sluggish fermentation. When I made this apricot wheatgerm loaf, I made sure the wet ingredients reached a nice warm 98F before I added in the yeast. To keep the dough warm through stages of fermentation, I placed it in a stainless steel bowl or baking sheet set atop a warm pan of water. My set up may be awkward but it certainly was effective. The dough raised exactly according to the schedule in Lepard’s recipe.
I made a few changes to the recipe according to ingredient availability. First, I used a mix of chopped dried apricot and jumbo dried red grapes. As for the flour, I used a mix of 200g unbleached bread flour and 150g of whole wheat bread flour. The texture did not suffer with the additional whole wheat flour. I actually prefer the nutty taste whole wheat flour imparts. My bread is a little more rustic, a little more hearty because of it.
I don’t know if using pureed medjool dates really made for a bigger loaf of bread though I can attest to its ability to keep my loaf moist. There is no noticeable taste of dates in the crumb from what I can tell. What is noticeable is cinnamon. I used a heady blend from Penzeys that combines cinnamon from China, Vietnamese, Korintje, and Ceylon. This is the all-purpose cinnamon which I love to use in baked goods.
I really like Lepard’s style of minimal kneading and gentle handling of bread dough. There is no lengthy knead to develop gluten. Rather, the extra rest between each 10 second knead allows gluten to form and the dough to smooth out by itself. The finished bread has delicate fine crumb just by leaving the dough alone to work its magic. I don’t even need to bust out the stand mixer! Everything is made by hand the old-fashioned way.
I already have next week’s bread recipe bookmarked. It promises to be another beauty!