Raisin & Pecan Wheat Bread & Crostini

As I mentioned in a previous post, a novel re-inspired me to get into bread and make a real go of figuring out starters and the ins and outs of yeast doughs. I happened to be reading the book around the same time I moderated a breakfast event catered by The Corner Bakery. Now, I had never heard of this place, had no idea where they were, or whether they were any good. Turns out they’re pretty okay (I still much prefer Paris Baguette), but one of the items they provided in particular sparked my curiosity.

After searching their catering menus and looking online, I still have no idea what this is called – though it might be under their vague naming of “sweet or savory crisps.” I’m gonna call it crostini, though it’s not strictly crostini. It was a dark rye bread with raisins and pecans, sliced thin and toasted with sugar sprinkled on it. I was intrigued when I saw it, but a bit iffy on trying it; it wasn’t until my associate mentioned wanting to try it as well that we decided to split one. ZOMG. It had a wonderfully dark flavor (and I’m not a fan of rye – just ask Mikal), with the pecans and raisins adding just a bit of sweetness. The sugar coating helped push it over to the breakfast-sweet side, but otherwise it tasted like it could almost be healthy. The flavor was decently complex, and something about it reminded me of a passage in the novel I was reading about a breakfast bread being made with raisins soaked in orange juice. *zapbangbam!* I had to try my hand at it.

This is quite the project – spans anywhere from 18-24 hours, and requires the setup of a sourdough starter, which takes about a week to prepare. That’s part of the reason it’s taken me so long to get it up here; the other is that this recipe marks my first recipe that I have really developed kind of on my own, and have futzed with. The second iteration of the dough worked much better than the first, so I’ll talk about that one below.

The recipe this is based on called for cranberries and walnuts. While I had walnuts, I never have cranberries. That might eventually change, but I also really wanted to try my hand at making an approximation of the crostini, so I translated the recipe to accommodate the raisins and pecans. The base dough was pretty standard and versatile, and didn’t give me too much trouble. You do want to squeeze the juice out of the raisins before you add them to the dough – otherwise it will come together too sticky/moist and you’ll have to add a good amount of flour to balance it out.

As I mentioned, this is a work in progress – do not be surprised if I revisit it in a bit.

Raisin & Pecan Wheat Bread

adapted from How to Bake a Perfect Life

Sponge
1 cup raisins, soaked in warm orange juice
1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground pecans
1 cup water
2 tbsp molasses
1 scant tsp yeast

Dough
sponge
1 tbsp oil
1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup soaked raisins

For the Sponge

Mix together all ingredients and knead for a few minutes, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 2-4 hours. It should be foamy – very foamy.

For the Dough

Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, knead together the sponge, oil, pecans and salt; knead on low for a couple of minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes, then knead again for 10 minutes or until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticky after a couple of minutes, add up to 1/4 cup flour a tbsp at a time. After the 10 minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in raisins. (Be sure to squeeze the juice out of the raisins, otherwise this gets messy pretty quickly.) Let rest again for 30 minutes.

Dust with a little white flour if needed and form the dough into a rectangle. Put this in an oiled 2-quart container and mark where the dough will be when it doubles. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Deflate dough, cover and place in fridge overnight.

In the morning, turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle. Roll into a loaf and tuck in the ends, and place seam-down onto a lined baking sheet. Cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a cast iron pan with pater and place in oven during preheat.

Uncover loaf and let stand for 5 minutes. Place loaf in oven, and turn oven down to 375°F. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden and sounds hollow when hit from bottom.

To make the Crostini

Thinly slice the loaf (or any portion thereof) into 1/4″ slices, and place on a baking sheet face up. Bake on 325°F for 15 minutes on one side. Remove from oven and flip over. Use either an egg wash or a bit of oil on the second surface of the slice, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the desired crispness is reached.

If you still have not reached a crispy enough level, preheat oven to 200°F (or lowest setting your oven will go) and bake for approximately 1-2 hours. Check periodically to achieve desired crispness.

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