Prune and Cheshnut Bread

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Our local Marks and Spenser bakery counter every so often puts out a tray with bite size samples of bread varieties, sometimes in combination with cheese, chutney or jam, for the customers to taste. So you can say that I had at least a bite of everything they make over the years and as a result, I became quite fond of their bakery (taking into consideration that we are talking about mass produced baked goods here). But having said that, nothing gave me a spark big enough to wake the desire to recreate it in my own kitchen - until I recently tried their Chestnut and Prune Bread. 
The search for a good recipe began as soon as I got back home, but many, although great recipes otherwise, were dismissed on glance only because I didn't want to use chestnut flour. Chesnuts are in season and I wanted to use that to my advantage and use them fresh rather then processed. I wasn't after a recipe that I could just copy either, I wanted a good basic recipe that I could play with.

As it often happens, I was about to give up for the time being, when I came across Bo Friberg's recipe. Perfect match! Had I followed his recipe exactly it would have produced a fluffier, a bit lighter texture that I wanted to avoid. I was after an old fashion, village style, rustic bread that may be dry but still delicious to eat or toast few days later.
I think that this is the tastiest bread that has thus far come out of my oven.


Prune and Chestnuts Bread


Sponge:
15 g fresh yeast
120 ml warm water
40 gr honey
115 g bread flour

Dough:

300 g roasted and shelled chestnuts
100 gr soft prunes, chopped
30 g unsalted butter
20 g fresh yeast
240 ml warm milk
170 g unsweetened chestnuts purée 
11 g salt
pinch of cinnamon
100 g whole wheat flour
390  bread flour

To make the sponge, combine all the ingredients to make a smooth mixture and let it rise until doubled in volume.
Chop roasted (it will take 10 to 15 minutes on 190 C/375F), shelled chestnuts into small pieces and sauté them on butter over medium heat until they feel soft to the touch. 
For the dough, dissolve the yeast in warm milk and let it rise, then add the purée, the sponge, the whole wheat flour, cinnamon and salt. Mix until combined.
If you are using the dough hook, start mixing and adding bread flour bit by bit, until you make a smooth elastic dough. Add the chestnuts and prunes and knead by hand until well incorporated. 
Cover and allow to rest until it has doubled in volume.
Divide into 2 equal pieces and form into a desired shape. I made one round loaf and one free form wreath, but much preferred the latter. It was a far more suitable shape for this kind of bread and tasted better!
Let proof again until doubled in size (and maybe a bit more than that).
Bake at 210 C/400F for about half an hour, or until the loaves feel light and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. 
Let it cool for a while, grab some butter and plum jam, and don't care who's watching :)  



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