Even allowing for poor light and a mediocre photographer, my Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread loaf could not be considered handsome. The Alpha Bakers are baking an out-of-the-ordinary savoury-ish bread this week. It was designed to be a torpedo shaped rye bread with some dried fruit and nuts. Mine turned out more like a little Swedish nugget with a fading blue rinse*.
It all started with a biga or two. I made a mix of bread flour, rye flour, yeast and water; left it to ferment for six hours and then (forgetting to mix it) put it in the fridge for a three day rest. After a period that may or may not have been longer than three days I started to wonder whether I had left it too long (or exactly how long I had left it). After consulting my Alpha Baker buddies I got nervous about giving the bread a bitter taste from an over-developed biga. So I ditched that batch and made another one.
This time the biga rested for only 2 hours in the fridge because I'd run out of time for anything more. Then it went into some water with walnuts, sultanas and apricots. I found some lovely fresh walnuts but used them in another recipe so I didn't have quite enough. I put in a few extra dried apricots which I chose to cut up and mix in with the dough (instead of following the instructions to place them carefully into the dough later). The dough seemed pretty wet and un-dough-like at this point. I felt a bit doubtful.
[For those who are dying to catch up on the latest in the golden raisins saga, you're in luck. Some more googling established that they are in fact what Australians refer to as sultanas but they have been treated with sulphur dioxide to keep them light coloured. So I just used the run-of-the-mill brown ones. Golden ones are undoubtably prettier but how good is sulphur dioxide for you?]
The dough was left for its first rise which looked quite passable. When I came to give it a four corner stretch and fold, the fruit seemed to be the most substantial thing about it. Hmmmm, a little more doubtful.
I put it in the fridge overnight for its second rise as per instructions. The next morning I took it out and left it to warm up for over an hour. At this point the dough was looking like it had had a more interesting Saturday night than me. Where was the springy, puffy dough I'd been expecting? Doubt turned into low level depression.
I shaped it into a boule form so it would fit in to my convection microwave (I learnt from my panettone experience) and after another rest, put it in to bake with a little bowl of boiling water since ice can't really fit under the 'shelf'. (Still waiting to hear from you about fixing my oven, Baumatic...)
The little nugget which came out of the oven showed no evidence of oven spring and was certainly what I would describe as rustic. I waited an indecently short time to cut into the loaf. Having put off the shopping while I finished the baking, I was starving. I slathered some pieces with butter and was pleasantly surprised by the sweetish earthy flavour. I ate a few more pieces. With lots of butter.
The next day just to be sure my hunger hadn't skewed the results I ate a few more slices with thick butter and found it delicious again.
I was still doubtful about the heavy texture and lack of spring but the flavour was good. I do think it would better with fewer apricots amd more walnuts ('oh really, thinks Rose, you mean like the actual recipe?').
PS: While I was baking the bread I misplaced my iPad cover (I use my iPad to take the photos). I found it when I took the bread out of the oven, attached to the bottom of the baking sheet (it has a magnetic hinge). It looked quite crispy, it may have been slightly overcooked...
*Older ladies of my grandmother's generation used to get their hair set each week and dyed with a bluey-grey rinse. I'm not sure if this inexplicable practice transcended national boundaries? I can only hope this horror was confined to suburban Australia.