Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Apple walnut braid

Here's another Beth Hensperger bread recipe.  The original recipe contained real milk, all white flour and eggs, and while I made substitutions for the first two, I was afraid not to use eggs.  I should point out that I generally don't have a problem with free-range and organic eggs as long as I really know where they came from; I just don't eat them often because they cost an arm and a leg!  I had been craving this type of bread for a while before I made it, and since this recipe produces two huge braided loaves, I've still got some in the freezer for the occasional craving.
Fresh apple-walnut braid

1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons fresh yeast)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
1 cup warm soy milk (105° to 115°)
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
3 to 3.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 large tart apples, cored and coarsely chopped (2 or 3 cups)
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
2 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon salt

1) In a large bowl with a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, brown sugar, warm water, warm soy milk, and 2 cups of all-purpose flour.  Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until bubbly, about 1 hour.

2) Add the apples, raisins, walnuts, oil, eggs, spices, salt and 1 cup more of the flour.  Beat until creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl, switching to a wooden spoon if necessary.

3) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and springy yet firm, about 3 minutes, adding only enough flour to prevent from sticking.  Place into a lightly oiled container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1.5 to 2 hours.

4) Turn out the dough onto the floured work surface and divide into 6 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a long, fat strip with tapered ends.  Lay three strips side by side and braid (this takes a few tries to get it right).  Pinch the ends of the braid together and tuck them under.  Repeat to make the second loaf.  Place the loaves in 2 greased loaf pans.  (I used a large sort of roasting pan and an oval casserole dish; whatever the bread fits into works).  Cover loosely and allow to rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.  Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

5) Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped, 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the pans immediately and allow to cool completely before slicing.

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