Photo by Katya
When Katya read the title of this bread, she just assumed it would be a festive quick bread; a second reading told her she'd better get going on this yeast bread. She didn't have time to make the three-day biga, but she had some good tips for flavor enhancement. She used raisins (every bit as Christmas-y as cranberries!) but added some Campari to the soaking liquid to counter the raisins' heightened sweetness. And she was also able to let it do a refrigerator rise overnight. Even made without the biga, "the final loaf had a nice crust and crumb, and good spring."
Vicki was also envisioning a quick bread. Not only that, she was envisioning one with candied orange peel ("good quality"), but when she went to check again, that ingredient had somehow disappeared. But she swore she saw it! Perhaps, she ponders, she's having "baking hallucinations"? There are probably worse hallucinations to have than dreams of orange peel, or visions of sugarplums, for that matter--they must come with the season. No harm done, anyway, because the bread turned out to be "delicious," even though she didn't think she'd like it.
Kristina's post is, in a way, an ode to lengthy bread recipes, which supposedly demand so much time, but really end up giving you dribs and drabs of free time to do chores, catch up on your reading, or anything else you want to do. Case in point: resting period for the bread gives you time to wrap a few Christmas presents; let it rise for a few hours/do some weaving; let it rise for another hour/watch an episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. We know Kristina enjoyed making the bread, but how did she like it? Well, I'm betting she liked it a lot when she finally tasted it, but, as of post time, she hadn't yet had a bite.
Kim pronounced this bread "wonderful." Also "gently sweet and tender." And she said "its slightly caramelized flavour was deep, dark, and smokey." For all the raves she gave it, though, she found the dough "very stiff," and she fought to incorporate the berries and nuts. Any difficulty she had in kneading the dough certainly didn't show in the final outcome, especially since Kim has found the deeply hidden secret to making proper slashes on a loaf of bread: a sharp knife.
I was curious to see if Jenn would make a mere fraction of this bread, as she likes to do with cakes, but it turns out that with bread, she likes to make a full recipe. Probably a good thing, since she and her husband together ate a third of the bread before the cooling time was even up. If you've ever wondered how Jenn gets her cakes, bread, pies, etc. to look so perfect, her post may give an answer (besides the obvious--talent at both baking and photography). There may be a little OCD-ness involved; take a look at how she "sprinkles" the cranberries on the dough:
Tony was not so orderly in strewing cranberries. In fact, at the last minute, he discovered that the packages he thought were dried cranberries were actually dried cherries, so the bread quickly became a Cheery Cherry Bread. The cherries were doctored up, Tony style, not just with plain H20, but with the addition of both orange and cherry liqueurs. Sounds like a great idea! Tony froze most of the loaf to serve to friends on Christmas morning, but couldn't resist taking a few slices for himself to spread with apricot lekvar--an early present to himself.
In the northern hemisphere, we think of late December as deep midwinter (or at least I do), and so it's good to be reminded that for some, like Catherine, it's the beginning of summer vacation. Her post of her cranberry bread also has photos of stunning summer flowers from her parents' house "in the south," with adjoining pictures of Christmas trees and poppies in full bloom. Even though she had a nasty earache, Catherine managed to make the bread, cook a Christmas Eve dinner, and watch Star Wars. Testing the bread with some ripe, spreadable blue cheese, Catherine made sure that it would do for the Christmas cheese plate. It would do quite nicely.
And for next week, another Christmas recipe: the White Christmas Peppermint Cake. If you don't celebrate Christmas, or you don't like peppermint, don't let that stop you. The cake, sans peppermint flavoring, is a high, light, and tender white cake that would take to almost any pairing you'd like to try. If you do celebrate Christmas, and do like peppermint, this cake will make a breathtaking addition to your yuletide traditions.