There is nothing French or even Norman about this bread, though the formula is based on the Normandy Apple Bread (NAB) from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman. This is one of the breads the Mellow Bakers are baking this February.
I have to confess I didn’t make my own cider. Ha! Who am I kidding? I don’t even really like cider. Reminds me of student parties and vomit to be honest. There, I’ve got that out of the way. But like so many things that you remember disliking it’s often worth trying again; olives took me about twenty five years to really get to love and it was time to face cider again.
In the interests of research I toddled down the road to Waitrose to see what they had on the shelves and they had loads of cider. I plumped for a bottle of Sheppy organic. I cracked the top and the first whiff took me straight back to Collingwood Road and a Vicars and Tarts party and a very bad hangover. I can’t remember now if I went as a Vicar or a Tart, I might just have donned my all purpose Groucho Marx glasses and moustache. That’s the effect cider has… and West Country scrumpy in particular is an acquired taste to say the least.
Halfway through gearing up for this I read Doc’s post and realised that what we call cider here is called hard cider (hard cider often has hard liquor added to it as well) in North America. The sweet cider that is called for by Jeffrey Hamelman is an unfiltered and unpasteurized apple juice, the kind you’d get if you go to a juice bar in the UK or have a juicer at home.
To read more about this complex subject I recommend the Wiki cider pages. Steve B on The Fresh Loaf also kindly suggested I read his post on making this bread which is a great read too! Thank you both, I have learnt loads from reading your wonderful blogs.
Back to my preparations : Last autumn we had loads of apples on our little family tree; three varieties on one root stock – Fiesta, Sunset, and Russet in case anyone is interested – and I oven dried what I thought would be masses of the Fiesta for this bread, carefully freezing the dried slices in anticipation of the NAB’s arrival on the list one day.
Unlike commercial dried apple rings which must be treated with something to keep them white and pale, these went the most lovely russet brown colour and have an extraordinarily intense flavour. They started off like this →
I ended up with a mere 50 grams so I made a half portion of the recipe this time around.
I thought at first to supplement mine with some from the whole food shop, so I went and bought some, but they turned out to be from China and I thought better of it as I was trying to keep the apple part as English as I could. My dried scraps were so sweet and nutty that I didn’t really want to surrender them to the bread, but I did in the end.
I supercharged my oldest sourdough with several feeds over three days and made the stiff starter as instructed. Here it is – full of life and energy – about to go to work.
I warmed the cider up slightly to try and reduce the alcohol content and the fizz. The dough took its time rising but it got there in the end. As you can see it sprang a little but not hugely.
I made some buttermilk loaves (the ones in the front of the above picture) with the same batch of leaven on the same day and you can see the contrast in the oven spring between the two breads. I was quite glad I did that as it reassured me that my leaven was working fine. You can see from the crumb shot below that there was reasonable aeration but not the irregular sized holes that one normally associates with a sourdough.
The flavour of the dried apples was wonderful, someone who sampled a slice said that it tasted like raisins, and (disapointingly maybe) I could only get a hint of a whiff of student life when I buried my face in the bread, certainly no taste of alcohol. The bread is like a mild fruit bread, subtle tastes rather than in your face apple. It was better the second day, and I like the crumb, not too soft, not too chewy, but really rather delicious!
I’ve picked up a couple of bottles of different cider to try, Old Rosie, a scrumpy style, a Swedish cider, and a carton of fresh pressed cloudy juice. It might be a bit harder to find some really excellent dried apples though. I am definitely going to play around with this bread. It’s a good one!
This is what I used for my English Cider ‘n’ Apple Bread
adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Normandy Apple Bread in ‘Bread A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes’
Here is a pdf file if you would like to print this out →Click here!
Makes 1 large loaf
To make a stiff levain
- 15 g mature starter
- 80 g strong white bread flour
- 48 g water
Mix to a firm dough, cover and leave for 12 hours until ripe – see picture above
For the final dough
- 300 g strong white flour
- 60 g very strong (high gluten) white flour
- 50 g swiss dark flour ( a fine wholewheat from Shipton Mill)
- 10 g fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp active instant yeast (optional – your rising times will be longer if you don’t use this)
Mix the three flours, salt and yeast (if using) together well in a bowl
Prepare the liquid part of the mixture by mixing the following together
- 200 g English Sheppy cider (alcoholic) warmed in a pan and allowed to cool to lukewarm temperature and mixed with
- 90 g water (aiming for an overall temperature of about 22 C)
- 143 g levain – all the above (assuming you have some starter kept elsewhere for your next bake!)
When the dough is well mixed and there is some gluten development add
- 50 g of dried apple pieces – I kneaded these in by hand after the dough had rested for about 15 minutes.
I whizzed my apple pieces up a bit in a chopper and had a mixture of fine apple dust and small pieces, this might be why my bread came out looking quite dark. If you are using commercially prepared apple pieces it might look different.
I used a Kenwood mixer to mix the dough initially and I have found when I mix this way it works best if I put the liquids and wet ingredients in first, followed by the dry ingredients. If I put the flours in first I always end up with unincorporated flour underneath what looks like well mixed dough on top.
Please mix and knead the dough in a way that makes you happy. These slow doughs will respond to gentle treatment, you don’t have to rush them or beat them up!
The dough bulk proved for two hours at 22 – 24 C in my boiler cupboard, with one fold after one hour.
I made one loaf which went in a banneton dusted with swiss dark flour and then left till it had risen by half (not the same thing as doubling!) which was another 2 hours approx.
I scored a pattern into the top and baked on a kiln shelf at 235 C for twenty minutes, after which I reduced the temperature to 200 C for another 30 minutes . I used a small metal tray on the rack below the shelf as my steamer, adding boiling water to it immediately after loading the bread in the oven.
If you make this, please rely on your own knowledge of your oven for temperatures and times just using mine as a guide. This was a biggish loaf and so I gave it a full bake for 50 minutes. The top goes quite dark due to the sugars from the apple cider and the dried apples.