adventures in bread-making: a really lovely loaf

She's a lovely looking loaf don't you think? fruity-nutty-sourdough rye. I like my fruit/nut breads on the savoury side with a hint of cinnamon, a crispy crust (or better still, toasted) and recently I've discovered the joys of real butter - butter from the fresh whole milk of Normandy cows with a sprinkle salt from the sea... I am still a novice sourdough baker, really just a novice bread maker in general, but I do think its well worth the time and effort for that wonderful aroma in the kitchen and that chewy, sour taste. There is something soothing too in the kneading and shaping of dough. I made my rye starter using these straightforward instructions.

for the loaf:
(adapted from Wild Yeast's recipe)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (like hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit (like raisins, currents, cranberries, dates, prunes, citrus peel, glacé ginger, sour cherries, abricots)
2 cups unbleached strong wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/2 rye + 1/2 wholemeal)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup sourdough starter (I used a 50% rye one)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk (for brushing)

**optional** soak your fruit & nuts overnight if you prefer a softer bite. This time I used hazelnuts, walnuts, currents, golden raisons and glacĂ© lemon peel.

Combine all the dough ingredients except cinnamon, fruit and nuts in a bowl. Mix by hand until combine adjust water to achieve a medium-soft dough. Add a little more flour if necessary. Continue kneading the dough by hand for about 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowel with a damp towel and let the dough sit to ferment for 1 hour.

Turn the dough onto a floured counter and pat into a disc. If fruit and nuts have been soaking drain off excess liquid. Then place the fruit and nuts plus 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in the centre then fold the dough around them, repeating until they are well dispersed throughout. If the soak becomes too sticky and wet at this point then just incorporate an extra 1/2 cup or so of flour.

Shape the dough into a batard (round ball-shaped loaf) and let it proof for 2-5 hours in the bowl covered with a damp towel - you will know its ready when you press the dough lightly and it slowly springs back. Mine was ready after 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 220'c. Just before baking place your loaf on a lightly floured oven tray or stone. Brush the top with milk then slash it 3 times with a knife. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes at 200'c with steam (a baking tin filled with 2 cups of water placed on the rack below will do fine). Then remove the pan with water and bake for a further 25 minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaf in for another 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy as it is, toasted, with lashings of butter, honey or whatever you like it!