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Monday, February 3, 2014

February ABC challenge: Fruit and Nut Breakfast Loaf with Moroccan flavors

I started out this month's challenge fully intending to follow the recipe exactly as written, except for maybe making it with some whole wheat flour.  And then this idea for Middle Eastern flavors came out of nowhere.  I swapped the walnuts for almonds, pistachios and pignolis, added apricots and prunes to the fruit mix, and added the exotic flavors of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and orange blossoms.

The use of whole wheat flour caused some consistency issues; I knew that getting the right consistency was key.  Since whole wheat flour benefits from a long autolyze, I made the starter with no white flour, but the 1/2 cup of water barely incorporated the flour and I was left with a thick clay.
The starter after 12 hours...
I added enough water to bring it to something that resembled the photo in the recipe blog, but it still probably wasn't as wet as it should have been.  By morning there was only the faintest trace of a single bubble (although that could have been because my house is cold.)  It looked better by late morning, but even after nearly 12 hours it still hadn't bubbled as directed.

... and after 16 hours

After about 16 hours, the starter looked good and I was ready to make the bread.  My adjustments are noted:

1 cup all-purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cool water (+ 3-4 tablespoons), to form a loose paste
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix the starter ingredients in a small (about 1-quart) bowl, and let rest overnight at room temperature.

*3/4 teaspoon saffron threads, ground to a powder
*2/3 cup skim milk, scalded (changed from water)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (increased from 2)
1 1/2-1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (decreased from 2 3/4)
*3/4 cup whole wheat flour
*1/4 cup high-gluten flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar (increased from 2)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
*1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
all of the starter
up to 1/4 cup water

*1 cup toasted almonds, pistachios (both very coarsely chopped) and pignolis
*1 cup chopped dates, apricots, and prunes (increased from 3/4, dates only)
1/2 cup golden raisins (reduced from 3/4)

3 tablespoons sugar (increased from 2)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 teaspoons orange blossom water (increased from 1 of plain water)

Soak the saffron powder in the hot milk for at least an hour.

When you're ready to make the dough, reheat the milk to very warm, add about a teaspoon of sugar, and sprinkle over the yeast.  Mix well and allow to proof until light and bubbly.

Very soft, but with lots of body.
Meanwhile, add the rest of the dough ingredients to the bowl of a food processor, holding out 3/4 cup of the white flour and the water.  Add the proofed yeast mixture and process at a low speed just until incorporated.  Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, and the water about 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have achieved a fairly slack dough, closer to a heavy batter actually.  Allow to rest about 20-30 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate, then check the consistency again and adjust as necessary.  (I left out the last 1/4 cup of flour.)

It held definition, but not a shape.
I generally followed the original recipe for the rest of the directions, with minor changes...

Place the dough in a bowl, and let it rise about 1 hour. It may not double in bulk; that’s OK.  (Mine more than doubled!)

Maybe it didn't need extra yeast after all.
Gently deflate the dough, and knead the nuts and fruit into it. Don't bother with wet or oiled hands -- this is a sticky, tar-baby exercise no matter how you do it.  (I recommend keeping one hand clean at all times; I guarantee that as soon as you get into it, something will start to itch.)  I kneaded with one hand and kept a silicone spatula in the other (the dough wasn't sticking to the silicone), working the dough off the sides of the bowl with the spatula.  Make sure you get up the plain dough off the bottom of the bowl and work it in.

It nearly filled the pan even before rising.

When fully mixed, dump the dough into a 9-inch springform pan (not shown here) and spread out with the spatula, letting the sides be slightly taller than the middle. (There was no way I could have shaped this mass into a ball.)  Cover the pan with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaf to rise for about 30 minutes, or until it's raised about 1".
After 30 minutes, it was about 1/2" above the pan.

Gently push down any surface fruit and cover them with dough so they don't burn. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and orange blossom water, and drizzle this mixture over the top of the risen loaf. Bake it in a preheated 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes, or until it’s golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes, carefully turn it out of the pan. Allow it to cool on a rack.

Before serving, sprinkle lightly with orange blossom water.  (The fragrace is heady.)  Serve with softened, unsalted butter.

Conclusion:  I  don't know why the originator chose to call this a coffeecake.  That gave expectations that were not met.  That's unfortunate, because the results are actually quite good and, though messy, it's an easy recipe.  There is plenty of room for lots of variation, too.  I haven't quite figured out how best to incorporate the flavors I want -- the orange blossom flavor was lost in the glaze, which is why I suggest sprinkling the bread before serving.  I would definitely sweeten the dough a little more for this particular variation, because both the whole wheat and the saffron bring a little bitterness. I'll be tweaking this if I ever get around to making it again, or I might just move on to a whole different combination.  Time will tell!

Original recipe:  Tuscan Coffeecake via King Arthur Flour


  1. Love your Moroccan take on this bread! The one thing I would have changed was adding more flavour to the bread - you've certainly done that here. Looks wonderful.

  2. How interesting! Looks good to me!

  3. Wonderful that you used whole wheat flour. Love the combination of flavors that you used.