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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

Aye, we are making full recipe this week, matey!

We are making this bread to celebrate Tu B'Shevat. As our fearless leader, Marie Wolf said, "we are nothing if not ecumenical in this group, and so it is not surprising that we mark Jewish Arbor Day." It's a day that is today's time is used to mark ecological awareness, trees are planted in celebration, and marked by eating things that grows on trees.

We got 6 inches of snow last night, so no tree planting this weekend. But we are going to eat this bread.

I love baking bread. It is right up there on my list of favorite things to make alongside cakes and pastries. Bread making is magical. You combine flour, salt, yeast, and water together. Mix it, knead it. Gluten formed. Place in a warm place and somehow it rise and double in size. And then you bake it and after it comes out of the oven it sings!!!

I bake Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread once a month for my husband. It's the same recipe every time and I have been making it for 3-4 years now. My version is slightly tweaked from the original recipe of 400 grams of bread flour. I use 320 grams of bread flour and 80 grams of whole wheat flour. I have all the steps down to a T and never gets bored making it. And every time it came out of the oven it made me so happy. The shape is always different, the cracks in different place. But I can always expect it to fill my kitchen with a wonderful smell and it sings every time.

This bread is pretty easy to make. It does require making biga 3 days before making the dough. But it doesn't take long to do. I made a couple of mistakes on this bread. I added the apricots to the dough with raisins and walnuts. And I rolled the dough the wrong side on the shaping part so my bread was higher and shorter.

I didn't do any altitude adjustment for this bread. Everything is feeling/behaving as described by the recipe. The dough was sticky/tacky. There's no leavening used for bread and I made no adjustment to the yeast or water.

The day before I made the biga, I told my husband that he is going to get a different bread this weekend. "Why?" he asked. "Because we are making a bread for the baking club," I responded. "It has walnuts, raisins, and apricots." I know he loves those ingredients. I didn't expect his next comment. I thought after 30-40 of the same bread, he would welcome a change. "But I like the bread you usually make." So then I promised him if he didn't like this bread, I would make him his usual bread.

On baking day, when I took this bread out of the oven, he said "it looks good." And then he added "I want to steal one of the raisins." I told him to go ahead but be careful in case it's hot. He said "no, later. It will ruin your picture."

After I finished photographing the baked bread, I gave the first several slices to him to try, who said "Excellent! Very good!".

Step by step photos:

This is the only Rye flour I was able to find. It's not coarse rye but I thought it's better than not using rye flour.

Rose gave the instruction of making the biga 3 days before making the dough. And then giving the bread dough the second rise at room temperature before baking or letting it rise overnight. Since I have time, I choose to do the overnight second rise. So the biga is made 4 days before baking.

It took 8 hours on a cold day until it grew to this.

The day before baking, make the dough. First, we toast walnuts.

Then we let the biga swim. Momentarily.

Add flour and yeast.

Mix into shaggy dough.

Mix more.

Add raisins and walnuts.

I have a 1.75 liter container (instead of the 2 liter) in the recipe.

First rise.

Pat the dough into a rectangle.

Fold the corners into a triangle. I don't know if I did this step correctly. This is how I interpret the instruction.

Back in the container for overnight rise.

Day of baking. Dough is not as big with second rise in the fridge.

Pat the dough to a rectangle of 7 x 5 inches. This is when I realized I added the apricots to the dough instead of waiting for this step.

Fold the top down like triangles.

Then roll the dough. Mine is only 8 inches long but really high because I fold it down the wrong side.

Place the do dough on baking sheet for rising.

It took 2 hours (again, cold day!) to get to this. It didn't grow as big as I thought it would but we have to leave in an hour to drop the car for maintenance and then to lunch. So I baked it.

After baking.

For the cheese course. Serve with cheese, salami, jam, or eaten as is. This bread is good!

Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.

Click here for a full listing of all the recipes we are baking.


  1. I feel relieved after seeing your post. I thought my loaf had something wrong with it because it didn't rise much in the end. But yours looks similar - phew! Lovely pictures as usual and the snowy one looks magical - from this distance anyway. I can only imagine the cold.

  2. Looks so good! My bread is already a memory. A fond memory, but it didn't last nearly long enough! I really love it! I'm glad you liked it too! I would be freezing with all that snow. If I had to live one mile further north (central North Carolina) I would perish!

  3. I'm glad you like it too! Your husband is such a good sport to be able to wait for you to take your photos first! :) Such nice weather you have there! Perhaps it's because we don't get snow here, I always find winter such a beautiful time. Maybe not so much fun if you have to shovel the snow every morning?

  4. Ok.. now I'm thinking I must have done something wrong, making the rounds on the fellow Alpha bloggers and I keep hearing how good it was.. and I did not care for it at all. It was ok, but did not blow me away. Like Raymond I found a taste that I quite did not like. Glad your experience was the opposite.

  5. What a gorgeous blog you have now! Looove the snow scene, so beautiful. Bread looking divine in your table-scape and know it is yummy.

  6. This is insane, but do you know I was totally captivated by the little orange spoon picking up on the orange bit on the jam jar, and the bit on the plate -- lol

  7. Gorgeous! Love how you paired it for a smorgasbord which is probably how it is traditionally eaten. Did you happen to toast a slice? It really brought out the fruit flavors. Is your husband's favorite bread recipe posted with your tweeks? I've been bitten by the bread baking bug.

    1. Hi Vicki, the recipe is posted on this post:

      The only tweak I did was to use 80 grams of Whole Wheat Flour and 320 grams of Bread Flour. The rest of the ingredients is the same and I used the same method as my step-by-step photos on the post. Let me know if you try it! I hope you like it :).

  8. Hi Jenn!

    Nice bread and photos!

    I am writing from Spain. I found a message from you on a webpage asking for advice about camera lenses. I am now facing the same problem... I have a DX camera (Nikon D7000). I do not know if I should buy a 105mm or a 60mm given that my camera has a cropped sensor and maybe the 105m forces me to shoot too far from the subject (and I do not have a lot of space in my home studio). Could you give me your advice, please? At the end, which one did you buy?

    Thank you :)

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thank you for visiting my blog! I bought the 105 mm lens but ended up returning it because it was too close up to the subject. Plus there was something wrong with the lens I purchased, most of my photos came up a bit blurry. Even with auto focus on the images are not sharp. So after much research and angst I ended up with Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM Lens, which turned out really nice for a general walk around lens. I really like the range. The 17mm gives me some wide angle views. It actually has rendered my Sigma 10-20mm useless - I hardly use it now. And it has some macro capability so I could take photos more close up than my other lenses. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions and good luck with your lens decision.

  9. Great pictures. Glad it turned out so good because it looks really good.


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