The most snow days per year we have had since moving to Minnesota. Since Monday we have been having a crazy dump. KP has the day off school today, so we all went out into the backyard this morning to enjoy the fresh eight or nine inches we got since yesterday. I’m convinced Izzy puts the Izz in Blizzard.
This weather is great for bread baking. Again, we return to the Hunza Valley of Pakistan for some age-defying bread recipes. This, I’ll say, had incredible flavor compared the prior Hunza disaster-turned-dog-biscuit.
Apricot and Almond Bread
Hunza Valley, Pakistan
2 cups goats milk or whole milk
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp yeast (or sourdough starter)
½ cup lukewarm water
5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp safflower oil
1 tbsp salt
2/3 cup apricots, dried and quartered
2/3 cup whole almonds
Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan, remove from heat and stir in honey, cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl; stir to dissolve. Stir in warm milk and honey, then stir in 3 cups of flour, a cup at a time. Stir 100 times in the same direction to develop the gluten. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sponge stand for 30 minutes at room temp.
Sprinkle oil and salt into the sponge. Stir in enough of the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, to form a stiff dough. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking for 10 minutes.
Rinse out and dry the bowl, and oil lightly. Add the dough, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough has doubled in volume .
Punch the dough down and let it rest five minutes. Then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a thickness of one inch. Sprinkle the apricots and almonds over the dough, roll up into a cylinder. Shape the dough into a ball and gently knead to distribute the fruit and nuts.
Lightly oil a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet with 2 to 3 inch high sides. Gently roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 10 inch round and transfer to the prepared skillet. Cover with plastic wrap or a dry cloth and let rise until almost doubled.
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a ½ inch deep X across the surface the dough. Bake until the top is light golden brown and the bread sounds hollow, about 45 minutes.
3.5 stars. The apricots and almonds give the bread sweet and savory notes. I probably should have kneaded it beyond the 10 minutes (because I’ve noticed that my kneading seems not to equal the kneading estimates of standard bread baking recipes), but it was a busy day and my arms were stiff from shoveling snow.
The 100% whole wheat was a plus for those health-concerned at beer church. I was impressed how rapidly the loaf rose under the heavy weight of 6 cups of flour. At one point I thought it might end up looking like the world’s largest muffin instead of a round shaped in a skillet, but cutting the X kept it at a decent size. Stay warm out there!