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Lisa Ekus Presents...


I love the way recipes develop. One afternoon in April, I was reorganizing my pantry and came across several small bags of dried fruit. There wasn't enough in any of the bags to amount to much, so I gathered them all up to create a dense loaf that goes well with fresh cheese, especially our fresh local goat's cheese. But the guests who were at our house that weekend couldn't wait for the cheese course: They wanted this bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What better compliment can you pay a cook? of course I complied! You don't need to follow the amounts and varieties of dried fruits and nuts to the letter. Use what you have on hand, mixing and matching dried fruits and nuts to your taste. Just be sure they are of top quality.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups (62.5 cl) lukewarm water

10 dried apricots (about 50 g), quartered

1/2 cup (75 g) golden raisins

4 dried figs (75 g) quartered

1/4 cup (25 g) quartered walnuts

about 5 cups (670 g) unbleached bread flour

1 cup (135 g) rye flour

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon raw honey

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a flat paddle, combine the yeast, sugar and water, and stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the apricots, raisins, figs, nuts and toss with 1 teaspoon of flour. This will prevent them from sticking together and allow them to be more evenly distributed throughout the dough. Set aside.

3. Add the bread flour, rye flour, and salt to the yeast mixture, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until most of the flour has been absorbed and the dough forms a ball. Add the honey and continue to mix until soft and satiny but still firm, 4 to 5 minutes, adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking. Add the dried fruit and nuts, and mix just until incorporated into the dough. Scrape the paddle. (If the fruit and nuts are not evenly mixed into the dough by machine, knead them in by hand.)

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until double in bulk, about 8 hours.

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 2 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.

6. Shape the dough into a large round loaf. Place a large floured cloth in a large loaf pan or rectangular basket and place the dough, smooth side down, in the pan or basket. Loosely fold the cloth over the dough. Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.

7 At least 40 minutes before placing the dough in the oven, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C; gas mark 9). If using a baking stone, place it in the oven to preheat.

8. Lightly flour a baking paddle or rimless baking sheet, and turn the dough over onto the paddle or sheet. Slash the top of the dough several times with a razor blade so it can expand regularly during baking. with a quick jerk of the wrist, slide the dough onto the baking stone or baking sheet. Using a garden mister, generously spray the bottom and sides of the oven with water. Then spray 3 more times during the next 6 minutes.. The steam created will help give the loaf a good crust and will give the dough a boost during rising. Once the bread is lightly browned—after about 10 minutes—lower the heat to 400 degrees F (210 degrees C; gas mark 7) and rotate the loaf so that it browns evenly. Bake until the crust is dark golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 30 minutes more, for a total baking time of about 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Do not slice the bread for a least 1 hour, for it will continue to bake as it cools.

Recipe from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence by Patricia Wells
(Scribner Books; $40.00/hardcover; October 7, 1996)
Reprinted with permission

Foodscape |
Lisa Ekus Presents...

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