This is our morning treat: a somewhat heavy bread, close to a fruit-nut cake, with complex, bold flavor.
I decided to make a variation of this bread for our vassilopita
(the New Year’s cake where the lucky coin is hidden) instead of the traditional rich, elaborate cake I used to bake.
I experimented with more and less nuts and dried fruit, and I feel that here I have pushed the nut-fruit additions to the limit. Feel free to add less nuts and/or fruit if you prefer to make a lighter bread that will rise more.
I cut the loaves into thick slices and freeze them in zip log bags. Every morning I take out the slices we want to eat and toast them.
We like them on their own, but they are wonderful with fresh cheese –cottage or ricotta– or just with yogurt.
Yields 3 medium loaves, or 2 loaves and a round bread
200 grams raisins
150 grams dried cranberries
1 cup sweet wine, orange juice or water
280 grams plums and/or dried apricots (or a mixture of both)
630 grams (about 4 ½ cups) bread flour
2 tablespoons instant dry yeast (2 packets)
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
2/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground aniseeds
1 teaspoon ground mahlep (oprional)
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
150 grams sunflower seeds, ground
160 grams shelled, unsalted pistachios
250 grams hazelnuts, almonds (or a mixture), coarsely ground
150 grams pumpkin seeds
About 1 ½ cup water, or orange juice, more as needed
1-2 teaspoons olive oil to oil the bowl and the cling film
In a bowl toss the raisins and cranberries with ½ cup sweet wine (orange juice or just water) and set aside for about 15-20 minutes to plump.
In a blender or food processor coarsely chop the apricots and/or plums with ½ cup sweet wine (orange juice or water).
In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the dough hook ad the flour, yeast, salt, sugar (if using), pepper, cinnamon, aniseeds, mahlep (if using), ginger, and the ground sunflower seeds, and toss with a spatula to mix. Add the plumped raisins and cranberries, as well as the chopped dried fruit, and work in low speed for 3-5 minutes to just mix, then gradually add some orange juice or water and the ground hazelnuts, the pistachios, and the pumpkin seeds.
Work the mixture for 6-7 minutes adding orange juice or water as needed to get a somewhat soft, sticky dough.
Oil a large bowl and a piece of cling film. Turn out the dough into the bowl, flatten with a spatula, cover with cling film and let rest for about 2 hours to rise –it will not rise much.
Line 3 loaf pans with parchment paper . Preheat the oven to 350 F (160 C).
Flour lightly the working surface and turn out the dough. With floured hands and a dough scraper knead briefly –folding, pushing, turning and folding again— for 1-2 minutes. Divide into 3, shape into loaves and place in the lined pans. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let them rise for another 35-40 minutes, again, they will not rise much.
Sprinkle the loaves with water from a plant sprinkler and bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
Turn the loaves front to back and change the pan’s position so that they bake evenly on all sides and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until well browned.
Wearing oven mitts remove the breads from the pans and place on a rack to cool completely before slicing.