Seed + nut + fruit bread: simple + pretty + GF
So much to love in a loaf that’s so easy
I hope you’re easing into 2023 and finding some delight in the new year. Chez me, I’m happy to be back in my yellow kitchen, happy to be cooking and baking and yes, happy to be planning my next trip. I had a friend who said that she always felt best when she had a ticket to somewhere in her top drawer. I’m like that, even if these days my ticket is on my phone.
Upstairs-Downstairs Bread Baking
While I love to bake bread, the serious bread baking in our house takes place in the basement, where Michael has a sweet setup for mixing and baking large batches of sourdough breads and great pizzas: Here’s his recipe for pizza dough — it’s from Modernist Cuisine.
The breads I usually make are enriched loaves, like my Daily Loaf (it’s the sliced bread above; here’s the recipe), brioche, babka and iced buns, with and without delicious fillings. But last week I made a loaf that was out of the ordinary for me and not in Michael’s bailiwick either.
The Bread That’s Chockablock with Nuts and Seeds
It’s a bread, but there’s no flour in it, no yeast either. It’s really like a trail mix held together with eggs, oil and the oven’s heat. It’s dense — in the best way. The texture is chewy. The flavors are comforting. And I think the look is great. I was inspired to make it when I came upon the loaf in Dean Brettschneider’s book, Kiwi Baker at Home. Maybe you already know it — after I made it, I Googled and discovered that it’s sometimes called Stone Age Bread, that it might be a Scandinavian bread (it looks like those dark rye and seed breads that I love), and that it can be found in some Paleo books.
The bread goes with butter and jams and honey. But it’s also really good with cheese — I love it with a slab of Comté or cheddar, a spread of soft, tangy goat cheese or a long smush of a runny cheese like Brie or Harbison (which, against all odds, I can actually find in my local grocery). And I think it could be really good with cream cheese and smoked salmon or maybe even better with gravlax. Wait! I forgot peanut butter — of course it’s good with peanut (or any other nut) butter.
I’ve given you a loosey-goosey recipe, because there are so many possible switch-ups. Please, read the “Good to Know Before You Start” info — I think it’s really helpful. As you’ll see, how you cut the bread is the baker’s choice. Even though I baked the bread, when it came to cutting it, Michael made the decision — he took it downstairs, pulled out one of his newest tools, a small, electric slicer, and cut beautifully even, very thin slices. He made a good choice!
I think you’ll have fun with this recipe — I did.
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SEED, NUT and FRUIT BREAD
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
Sniff, taste, then bake: Nuts are notorious for going rancid, and even a couple of spoiled nuts can ruin whatever you’re baking. Make sure to smell your nuts and then taste them before you use them. Once the oils in the nuts have gone off, there’s nothing to do to save them. No, toasting won’t rescue them. And while you’re at it, sniff your oil, too. I store nuts in the freezer and seeds, which are not as sensitive, in the fridge. Still, I sniff and taste before I measure, chop and bake — you can’t be too careful here.
Measuring: Because you can use so many different kinds of seeds, nuts and dried fruit, volume measures (meaning American cups) don’t really work — 1 cup of chopped dried apricots is very different from 1 cup of currants or dried cranberries. I’ve given you APPROXIMATE cup measures, but if you’ve got a scale, please use it.
The seeds: I used what I had in the freezer — and yes, even I was amazed that I had such a selection. I used flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, millet and chia. I think the chia is important for the bread’s texture.
The nuts: Again, I used what I had and it was a really nice mix — walnuts, pecans and whole almonds with their skins. I also made the loaf once with pine nuts in the mix. Hazelnuts would have been good (if Michael only liked them). Even Brazil nuts or cashews or pistachios. I cut the almonds, walnuts and pecans in half.
The fruit: I used dried cranberries — mine were wizened, so I soaked them in hot water for half a minute and then patted them dry. Raisins or currants would be good as would larger dried fruit, like apricots, pears, apples or prunes. If you choose large fruit, snip or chop it into small pieces.
The loaf pan: Choose an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3 -inch pan with a capacity of 1 1/2 liters (fill the pan with water to find its volume). You could use a pan that’s a tad smaller (you’ll have to adjust the baking time), but I don’t suggest a larger pan. (Of course, given the choice between using a pan that’s slightly off or not making the recipe, making the recipe wins. Always.)
Testing for doneness: The tests that you might usually use to tell if something is baked — such as pressing the top or sticking a skewer into the center — don’t really work with this loaf. The best test is temperature. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer (I like a Thermapen for jobs like this), you can go with timing and tester.
Makes one loaf that serves about 10, depending on how you slice it
A scant 400 grams seeds (see above) — for me, this was approximately
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flaxseeds
1/3 cup chia seeds (see above)
1/4 cup millet seeds
About 150 grams nuts (see above for my mix) — for me this was approximately 1 cup chopped nuts
About 80 grams plump, moist dried fruit (see above) — for me this was approximately 2/3 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon honey
100 ml oil, I used canola, but you could use avocado or olive oil
Working in a large bowl, mix the seeds, nuts, fruit and salt together. Gradually stir in the eggs, mixing to moisten all the ingredients, followed by the honey and oil. Set the bowl aside, stirring now and then — you want to make sure that the liquid that seeps to the bottom early on is eventually absorbed by the fruit, nuts and seeds. This takes about 20 minutes, so preheat the oven and prep your pan while you’re waiting.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Lightly oil, butter or spray an 8 1/2-inch loaf pan — see above. Line the bottom and long sides of the pan with parchment.
When all the liquid has been absorbed, scrape the mixture (it’s not really a dough, is it?) into the pan, leveling it and smoothing the top as best as you can. Don’t press the mixture down — just get it into the pan, cajole it into the corners, get the top kind of even and call it quits.
Bake the loaf until an instant thermometer inserted into the middle of the bread reads 190 to 200 degrees F, between 50 and 60 minutes (see above). With this bread, it’s best not to go over 200 degrees F. Transfer the pan to a rack, let the bread rest for 5 minutes and then lift it out, remove the paper and allow it to come to room temperature on the rack.
You can cut the bread when it’s just warm and of course it’ll be tasty, but it cuts most easily and has the best texture when it’s completely cool. The bread is dense — it’s one of its nicest qualities — so it’s good to cut it into thin slices. Cut and taste and see what you like. You might even like it toasted or griddled in butter.
STORING: Wrapped well, the bread will keep for at least 5 days at room temperature and for up to 2 months in the freezer. It’s nice to slice the bread and then freeze it; defrost in the wrapper.
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