A challenge, that’s what this blog is all about. I wanted to build on my already existing hobby and create an exciting challenge for myself. As mentioned in an earlier post, my family, friends and colleagues have been the main benefactors of my challenge as they are the ones who have to eat my bread and make judgements on it. They have also been encouraged to make suggestions of breads for me to make and I will rise to the challenge and have a go at it. One of my colleagues took this very seriously and asked me to make him his favourite bread that he buys from M & S, Cranberry and Pecan. Now this was really going to be a challenge, firstly as I had never tasted this bread before so I didn’t know how it was supposed to taste. Secondly, the expectation was high as this was his favourite loaf of bread.
The instructions I was given was that it was a brown loaf, with roasted pecans and dried cranberries, which had a thick crust and slightly sweeter than a normal brown loaf. As you can see that wasn’t much to go on but I was determined to give this a go and to keep on trying till I got it close enough to the real one.
My first thought was, to trial it using my basic bread recipe, and adapt it from there. I decided that this loaf was not going to be 100% brown, therefore I put 50% white flour and 50% brown flour in to the mixture of my basic bread recipe. After allowing the dough to prove for the first time, I incorporated the roasted pecans and cranberries and shaped the dough. Once they had proved a second time, they went into the oven.
What came out the oven was a nice brown loaf with cranberries and pecans, not a cranberry and pecan bread. Don’t get me wrong it was edible and nice but it wasn’t what M & S had on their shelves. After careful consideration and armed with the feedback I was given, I decided that many more cranberries need to be added with a few less pecans. Also I was going to substitute some of the water that is needed for the dough mixture with cranberry juice and a tablespoon of soft brown sugar.
I made the bread again with these adjustments, and the result was really pleasing, the increased amount of cranberries were perfect as their sweetness could be tasted properly with every mouthful and then a crunchy pecan surprise with every other mouthful. The cranberry juice also added another dimension to the bread as it gave it a subtle sweeter taste and a softer texture. Let’s just say, that the two loaves that I brought into work didn’t really last till lunchtime!
As I have never tasted the M & S version, I am happy with the outcome and think it a pretty darn good attempt, considering I made it blind and would be proud to have that bread associated with my name. However, apparently the M & S one is slightly fluffier and lighter that mine, but I am putting that down to the preservatives and artificial raising agents that they use. I will stick to my natural ingredients, but as I like a challenge I may just have to work out how to make it more aerated so it comes out fluffier.
So that leaves me to ask… who wants to set my next challenge?
Here are some tips for a making a brand new bread that you haven’t tasted.
- Try and get as much information about the original bread, or if you don’t know anyone who has eaten the bread before then consider carefully what you expect the bread to taste and look like.
- The first attempt should be done to a basic bread recipe as it is easier to work up and improve from that level.
- If using fruits in your bread make sure they are of the dried version and if there is the juice available from that fruit, it is a good idea to substitute some of the water in the mixture for that juice. If it’s a sour juice, like the cranberries are I would suggest putting in a tablespoon of sugar to balance out the flavour. The juice and sugar also enhances the colour of the bread.
- Don’t be scared to overload your bread with the dried fruit, there is nothing as disappointing as taking a bite out of your slice and not having a piece of the fruit in it.