"We Ga-a-ther Toge-e-ther to Sing the Lord's Praises ..."
The holiday season is upon us. Here in Pittsburgh, tonight is Light Up Night when all buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh are ablaze with lights and holiday displays and decorations are revealed. Thanksgiving is next week and today, I am going to show you a wonderful yeast bread that I am going to make for the holiday meal. As beautiful as it is tasty, this Harvest Bread features a chewy crust and full- bodied crumb that is studded with dried cranberries, golden raisins and pecans. Harvest Bread will pair beautifully with roast turkey.
Harvest Bread is from King Arthur Flour's collection of no-knead breads. Instead of kneading the dough to build the gluten, you mix the dough and let it rise at room temperature for at least 8 hours. Time does the work of developing the gluten for you. Longer rising time also builds flavor. In fact, I usually mix no-knead doughs in the afternoon and let them rise overnight. Mid-morning the next day, I shape the dough for its second 2 hour rise. Remember, the longer the rise, the greater and deeper the flavor in the finished loaf. On average, my no-knead breads rise about 18 hours. With that intro, let's get baking.
In a large bowl, mix together all purpose or hi-gluten flour, whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1-3/4 cups of cool water. I opted to use hi-gluten flour for my loaf. This flour product, also from King Arthur Flour, has 14.2% protein. The extra protein in hi-gluten flour will yield a higher rise in your loaf. If you don't have hi-gluten flour, use all -purpose flour. Your loaf will still taste great, it just won't have as high a rise. Once the ingredients are incorporated, add in the dried cranberries, golden raisins and chopped pecans. Here's the mixed dough. Be sure to use a large bowl because the dough will rise ... a lot. Cover the bowl and sit it on the counter at room temperature overnight.
After 18 hours, the same dough has risen significantly. See the difference in the volume of the dough? It's hard to believe that just 1/2 teaspoon of yeast can do all of that! This bread is best baked in a covered baker or lidded Dutch oven or baking crock. I am going to use my long clay baker for this bread.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a rough rectangle, about 5 x 14 inches. Roll the rectangle into a long loaf and set in the bottom portion of the baker, seam side down. The dough must rise another two hours before baking. You should cover the dough with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap so that the top of the loaf won't dry out.
After two hours, the loaf has risen noticeably. Cover the baker and place it in a cold oven. Start the oven and set it to 450 degrees. Bake the bread for 45-50 minutes then remove the cover from the baker and bake the bread for an additional 15 minutes or so until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees.
Your finished loaf should be golden brown with a thick crust. Turn the loaf out of the baker and let it cool on a rack for at least one hour before cutting it. This will be difficult, I know, but it will let the crumb of the loaf firm up.
Look at the lovely loaf! Deep red cranberries, golden sweet raisins and pecans ... Yum! A loaf of Harvest Bread ready for the Thanksgiving table. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!!