I recently joined a FaceBook group, Artisan Bread Bakers, to commiserate with like-minded "bread heads", learn from others' experiences and mistakes, and ultimately, inspire me to return to baking. The group spearheaded by David Wolfe, a bread baker enthusiast and bread blogger (The HearthbakedTunes), provides us with a bread recipe to bake each month. Thank you, David! Life circumstances get in the way which didn't allow me to stand on my feet for almost five weeks, but feeling connected with the bread bakers in the FB group really kept my spirits up. And continued to inspire me!
On a quick note, I was really excited to know that this was December's BOM (Bread of Month) since it's an adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's original recipe, Golden Raisin and Walnut bread. Hamelman is my bread hero.
I've spent ten months obsessing over Neapolitan pizzas and it's time to re-hone my bread baking skills. I miss it. I miss baking artisan breads. I needed to get muscle memory back and this bread did the trick. Hamelman's bread formula uses a biga (a pre-ferment, a mixture of water, flour and a little yeast made the previous night). David's recipe, Hazelnuts and Raisin Bread is straightforward, using instant dry yeast. It's a 68% hydration recipe using equal amounts of bread and whole wheat flour. I only had walnuts on hand, so my recipe used roasted walnuts and golden raisins.
As the recipe suggested, I started mixing the ingredients with a mixer and decided to abort the use of my Kitchen Aid in the last 2-3 minutes and use my hands instead. It's really important to feel the dough and learn to feel the consistency before the start of bulk fermentation.
Dough fermented over dinner, divided and shaped after dinner and let in rest in a couple of well floured bannetons. The oven was still hot from spatchcocking a chicken. You heard right. And it is the juiciest chicken I have yet to bake! Okay, back to bread baking. So I add water into a pan of lava rocks to create steam prior to transferring dough with wooden peel. The steam helps with oven spring. After a couple of slashes, I slid both loaves on top of a pre-heated baking stone, and added more water on a pan of lava rocks. Sizzle. Sizzle. Oven temperature read 500F. Took a peek at the loaves to make oven wasn't too hot since it's a sugary bake (raisins). The loaves baked in 30 minutes which came out in shades of burnt siena, wheat beige and caramel. You can hear the wonderful sounds of crackling when the bread first comes out of the oven!