Does this sound holiday-ish.............. or what?! Would you suffer through the Thanksgiving leftovers if you could have turkey sandwiches or paninis on this delicious bread? How about a simple breakfast for guests of toasted Cranberry Pecan Artisan Bread and fresh fruit? Or a fabulous Christmas morning brunch starring Cranberry Pecan Artisan French Toast! Guess what.............?
.............you can have all of these this holiday season and whatever else your imagination leads you to do with this fabulous bread because the initial prep time is literally 5 minutes! You think I'm kidding, right? Well, I hate to tell you this but you're wrong...... you have to try this!
This is how it works; you throw all the ingredients into a large bowl/container (if you have a history of yeast-phobia, no worries, no proofing here!), mix it up with a sturdy spoon, cover and let it rise. The next step, again, takes about 5 minutes; take a clump of dough out of the bowl, lay it on a floured surface, fold it over a few times and let it sit on a floured towel while the yeast does it's magic and the dough swells to double. The last step happens in the oven while you mosey around, doing whatever it is that you like to do (maybe it's checking out cooking blogs!) with the most unbelievably heavenly aromas wafting though your home!
I've been making this bread for years now but just recently adopted a fun, easy way to bake it............... in a dutch oven! It sounded a bit crazy to me initially and I was quite skeptical the first time I tried it. I saw this method on my friend, Nicole's blog, The Galley Gourmet (check it out - it's one of my favorites) The results are quite spectacular, a true rustic artisan bread with a crisp, golden brown crust and a chewy soft interior. I added dried cranberries and pecans for the holiday season but you could add your own favorite dried fruits and nuts. If you've never made bread before, this might be the perfect way to get started ............. it's simple and yields delicious results! Who knows, your family and friends might start referring to you as their "artisan baker"!
P.S. Okay, okay, I admit, I was wrong: it doesn't take 5 minutes to make this bread............... it takes 10.................. with the dough shaping included, sorry!
Oh, and you think you have "monkey business" going on at your house?
Well, look who I found in my kitchen! Isn't he cute? (I honestly had no idea until I was editing the pictures my husband had taken - there he was!)
Cranberry/Pecan Artisan Bread - Another 5 Minute Bread!
2-¾ cups lukewarm water
1-½ tablespoon granulated yeast
1 ¼ tablespoons sea salt, if you don't have sea salt or kosher salt, use regular salt but only use 1 tablespoon
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6-½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup dried cranberries
1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container. Stir to combine and add the dried cranberries and pecans.
2. Mix in the flour without kneading. I used this fun whisk (thanks again Annie - I love it!) but a sturdy wooden or metal spoon would be fine. This is when you have to get out a bit of elbow grease - the dough will be quite thick and shaggy. Just mix until all the flour has been incorporated.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and colapses (or flattens on top), 1- 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is and what kind of mood the yeast is in.
4. Sprinkle your counter liberally with flour. Take out half of the dough (or a quarter of the dough if you want smaller loaves) and place in on the flour covered counter. Place the rest of the dough in the refrigerator - it will keep for 4-5 days or until whenever your ready to make your next loaf! Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough into a mound on top of the floured surface. Turn it over to coat the entire ball of dough with flour - this will help it lose some of it's stickiness. Using floured hands or a bowl scraper, lift the outside edges toward the center, working around the entire piece to make a smooth round ball.
5. Lay a thin cotton or linen tea towel (not terry cloth, which tends to stick) or a large cloth napkin on your work surface. Generously sprinkle the surface of the towel with flour. Using your hands or scraper, gently lift the dough on to the prepared towel and place seam side down. Dust the top of the dough with more flour. Cover the dough with the sides of the towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise, about 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.
6. About a half an hour before the end of the second rise, place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 475º F and place a 3-4-quart heavy pot or cast iron dutch oven with a tight fitting lid in the center of the rack (mine holds exactly 3 quarts and is 6 inches wide by 33/4 inches tall. If you are making a small loaf with just a quarter of the dough, use a smaller pot).
7. When the dough is ready to bake, carefully remove the HOT dutch oven from the oven using oven mitts; remove the lid. Unfold the towel, gently slide your hand under the dough and gently invert the dough into the hot pot. (I like to do this step over my kitchen sink - any excess flour will fall into the sink and it's easier for me to do this step with my pot lowered into the sink a bit.) If any dough clings to the top or sides unevenly, quickly run an off-set spatula or knife around the edges to even. The dough will eventually even itself out while baking.
8. Using oven mitts, place the hot lid back on the pot and return to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the hot lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep, golden brown, about 15-20 minutes more. Remove from the oven. Invert the pan to release the bread or use a thin handle of a spatula to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool completely before slicing, about 2 hours.
Makes 2 large or 4 smaller loaves - the dough will keep in your refrigerator for 4-5 days - just allow for a longer rising time if you start out with cold dough.