One my greatest pleasures in life is baking bread. I love the feeling of concocting a gruel from the simplest of ingredients flour, water, salt and yeast to create such a variety of sustaining foods, bread, our daily bread. For many years I made bread at work and at home only inconsistently committed to bread making, as I couldn't quite get the balance between making and consuming quite right. Fast forward to life here in the Italian alps and now we rely on my passion for bread to not only nourish and sustain us as my husband is a bread- aholic and I have an enthusiastic crowd of bread eaters built in with our B&B business, so I do so enjoy keeping up with all of their appetites. I enjoy participating in World Bread Day 2009- Yes we Bake. It is deeply satisfying to my soul.
This time of year I like to vary the ingredients to what is in season and so what a better combination than apples and chestnuts. The chestnuts are just starting to come down in our neighborhood and making their appearance in the market and naturally the supply of chestnut flour is replenished and apples abound everywhere you look. It won't be long before we have our annual apple festival in Cavour celebrating the roughly 35 varieties of local apples. The festival is a wonderful extravaganza of all sorts of treat and a great place to get a bargain on your favorite apples and try a few unfamiliar ones as well.
Anyway, here a recipe for this seasons favorite that I think I'll be make a few more times as I love the combination of the sweet nutty chestnuts with the tartness of the green cooking apples that I used. Here one of my favorite varieties to bake with is ranette, of course back in the US I used to like macintosh, fuji, and granny smith , but there are som many to use. Feel free to use your favorite variety keeping in mind to use a baking variety, so that it will hold it's texture when baking. The sweeter eating apple varieties will generally turn to mush. I used chestnut flour, and I think next time I might add some chestnut pieces for another added dimension to this bread. it is a soft chewy texture that toasts us nicely and lends itself to savory cheese spread for a tasty lunch or antipasti addition. Enjoy the endless possibilities.
I almost forgot to add that you should go over to Zorra's of 1x Umruhen Bitte blog who hosts this event as well as a monthly baking event. She'll be rounding up the offerings around October 25th.
Pane con Mele e farina di Castagne / Chestnut Apple Bread
Yeilds 2 large oblong loaves
900 g (2lb/9 c ) bread flour , might need more if the dough is too sticky to handle
100 g (1 c) chestnut flour
12 g (2 tsp) yeast, instant dry
10 g (2 tsp) salt
150 g ( 1/2-2/3 c) poolish/ biga*
30 g (2T) olive oil or saffron or corn
600-650g (2 1/2 c) water, warmish water if you want to make this within a few hours
amount varies depending on if you use the biga or not
250 g (9oz or 1 1/2 c) tart apples, diced small to medium, not too small, so they don't disappear
* I use my natural yeast starter (that fluctuates between a poolish and a biga)that I always have in the refrigerator and the consistency and strength of it can vary, due to many factors (mainly me) so my ingredients are often times adjusted to the current conditions.
If you don't have any type of sour dough starter then you can make your own poolish by the very simple method of making it a day before you start this bread.
100 g (1 c) flour
118 g (1/2 c)water, room temperature
1/4 tsp yeast, instant dry
Mix together in a roomy bowl, cover and let set at room temperture for 3-4 hours.
Refrigerate over night and pull out and take the chill off of it for an hour before using.
- Weigh out and combine your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, either by hand or for a stand mixer
- Add your oil, biga and water and mix by hand till completely incorporated. Knead until you reach a smooth pliable ball.
- Flatten your dough out and add the apple pieces.
- Stretch and fold the dough over the apples in a few places and begin to work the pieces in whilst gently kneading the dough again.
- The dough may break up, but continue to knead the dough and you should find that it will come back together and become smooth and pliable again with the apple pieces distributed throughout the dough.
- Place your dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp towel or a plastic wrap.
- Let rise till the dough doubles in size or at least feels lighter and full of air
- Slightly deflate and shape your dough into 2 oblong loaves (great shape for toasting)
- Place in either oiled bread pans or baskets that have been lined with heavy muslin, dusted with flour. I put the seam up, so when I flip it out the right side is up.
- Cover the bread with a loose fitting plastic bag and allow to rise till doubled in size* this can take up to 3-4 hours or over night depending on how you choose to finish your bread.
- Preheat your oven to 230* C (450*F)
- Flip your bread onto baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat
- Slash the top with a straight edge razor blade or very sharp knife
- Place a pan of hot water in the bottom of your oven
- Spray the oven with hot water just before putting your loaf in.
- Spray one more time in the first 10 minutes of baking
- Reduce the heat to 200* (400*) and continue baking
- Bake until the crust is golden and the bottom of your loaf is brown and hollow sounding
- Approximately 40 minutes (it takes about 25 minutes in my convection oven)
- Resist cutting it for an hour,
- Then enjoy with whatever strikes your fancy, apricot jam, apple butter fresh ricotta cheese with chives and garlic, sprinkled with toasted sunflower and sesame seeds, Nutella or fresh creamy chestnut honey butter.
- The possibilities are endless....