This is one of three bread recipes in the Baking Bible in a chapter entitled "For the Cheese Course," and indeed, cheese is wonderful with this bread. We baked a small wheel of brie to go with it and the combination was pure poetry!
It begins with a biga, or starter, which is a simple combination of bleached bread flour, rye flour, water and yeast. It is allowed to get nice and puffy, and then tucked in for a three-day stay in the refrigerator to build flavor.
You can read all about different types of dough starters—sourdough starter, biga, sponge, poolish, levain—in Rose's previously published Bread Bible. I can’t remember all the details, and unless you care to, you really don’t need to memorize it all either! All you need to know is—trust that Rose understands it, follow the recipe carefully and it will be delicious!
I soaked the golden raisins in hot water for a few minutes. Not long enough to turn them back into grapes, but enough time to plump them up. I used the soaking water in the recipe, which Rose does in many of her recipes.
Notably, there is no sugar or honey in this bread. The only sweetener is the fruit.
I figured out that I learned to bake bread about 40 years ago. Yikes! There are several artisan bread bakers among the Alpha Bakers. I am a world-class bread eater, but an average bread baker! Until Rose's Bread Bible came along, I was accustomed to recipes that called for just two rising periods. This dough includes three “rises,” or proofing periods.
I had plenty of dried apricots left over from our second Alpha Bakers assignment—the English Dried Fruitcake. Although this is a Swedish recipe, I couldn't find a single IKEA kitchen implement to include in the making of this bread!
The dough has risen for the third time, but it's not a large, puffy loaf. At this point, my dilemma is always--to slash or not to slash? I have deflated loaves of bread with my timid slashing, but this time I braved it with no ill effects (immediately after this photo was taken!). My tool of choice for that purpose--a single-edged razor blade.
The contrasts between the crisp crust, the sweet apricots and raisins and the crunchy walnuts is addictive! I could have eaten the whole loaf myself! The rye flavor is very subtle, so even if you don't care for rye bread, don't let that dissuade you from trying this exceptional recipe.
It's tempting to begin a new biga immediately, but Smitty isn't a fan of raisins or other dried fruits. I don't know what's wrong with the guy! I guess I'll wait a while--but not too long!
Rose's Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers around the world who are baking through our own copies of the newest book by Rose Levy Beranbaum--The Baking Bible. The recipes are copyrighted material.