It’s such a relief when you go to the trouble to make any kind of bread and you end up nailing it. This had a tender, delicious crumb and is fantastic toasted too. We found this treasure in Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart and the only adaptations we made were in the fruit we added. A real keeper!
3/4 cup (90 g) good quality unbleached bread flour
2 tsp. (6 g) instant yeast
1 cup (224 g) buttermilk, at room temperature
Stir together the flour and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk and mix until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the sponge to ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours until very bubbly.
A mix (around 1-1/2 cups or 255 g) of 2-3 of your favorite dried fruits, chopped into a small dice
Soak these in 1/4 cup (236 g) Spiced Rum or Vanilla or Orange Juice Concentrate (your preference). Let it sit while the sponge is developing.
4-1/3 cups (520 g) unbleached bread flour
1/3 cup (66 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 large eggs (275 g), cold (use the weight measurement here; if you have extra, use it for the egg wash)*
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
Sponge (see above)
Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix on slow speed for one minute, then medium speed for five minutes.
Add fruit plus 1 cup (86 g) of sliced almonds or walnuts and mix an additional two minutes until the dough is soft and tacky. It should pass the window-pane test. Add water if the dough is too stiff or flour if it is too sticky.
[To make by hand, knead the dough on a well-floured counter with floured hands for about 15 minutes, adding the fruit and nuts during the final three minutes.]
Mist the dough with cooking spray, cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at room temperature for 90 minutes until it increases in size by 1-1/2 times.
Split dough in half and place it evenly in two medium loaf pans. Cover and allow it to rise at room temperature for 90 minutes until the loaves are nearly double in size.
Position oven rack 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom and preheat oven to 325° F. Brush dough with egg wash. (Use any leftover egg from the dough recipe, or if you don’t have any, just whisk one whole egg in a small bowl).
Bake for 25 minutes and then top with foil for the last 15 minutes. Internal temperature should be 185° F. Let sit in oven with the heat off for five minutes at the end.
Adapted from Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart