I can hardly believe September is halfway through and that the first frosts are already chilling our nights. I, like many Alaskan berry pickers, like to wait until after the first freeze to harvest Lingonberries known locally as Lowbush Cranberries. Some believe they are sweeter for eating if picked after that frost, but honestly I end up waiting because I try to eek out as many blueberries as I can first, knowing the cranberries can wait.
With the cold weather settling in, I am back in bread baking swing and having a bowl of fresh cranberries in the fridge I thought we needed some fall spice in the air. This crusty, berry-dotted loaf is made from a no-knead French bread dough, with a little cinnamon, nutmeg, & cardamom sugar swirled in. It’s perfect for having with tea, toasted, French toasted, or even made into a breakfast bread pudding. Though we can hardly ever wait for it to fully cool, Bea is often seen eagerly tearing off chunks piping hot from the oven. I did not include nuts in this recipe though we often add chopped pecans for a little crunch.
Alaskan Lowbush Cranberry Spice Artisan Bread
For the dough –
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 Tablespoon yeast
- 1 scant Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons warm water
For the spice and berry swirl –
- 1 cup Lowbush Cranberries (Lingonberries)
- 4 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
In a large glass bowl, mix the yeast, salt, and water until salt is dissolved and yeast is frothy. Add in your flour all at once, stir thoroughly until very well combined. The dough will be quite moist but should come away from the side of the bowl as you stir forming a craggy dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place undisturbed for two hours. The dough will rise and should fall to level in this timeframe. Place risen dough in fridge for at least two hours, though overnight is best, leave until you are ready to bake. Dough is good in fridge up to a week.
On baking day, mix your sugar and spices in a small bowl and clean your berries. Take dough from fridge and generously dust the surface with flour. Remove dough from bowl onto a floured surface and divide into four equal pieces. You will need a fair amount of flour on your work surface and dough to keep it from sticking, this is fine!
With each piece of dough create a roughly 8 inch rope and then flatten the rope out into a long rectangle. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the sugar-spice blend onto each and spread with a 1/4 cup of cranberries. Roll into a rope once more ensuring all the berries are in the middle.
Following the steps shown in the pictures below braid the bread and tuck loose ends under to form your loaf. Place on a floured piece of parchment paper to rise for 30 minutes prior to baking.
While bread is rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit with a baking stone on the rack in the middle of the oven. Additionally, place an empty broiler pan on the rack below baking stone.
Once the oven is heated and bread has been allowed to rise (don’t worry if it only rises minimally it will continue in oven), place loaf, still on the parchment, onto the hot baking stone and return the stone to the oven. Working quickly pour 1-2 cups of water into the hot broiler pan and close the oven door trapping in the steam. The steam is what makes your crackly crust. Now don’t peak! Allow to bake 35 minutes, check for browning and allow to bake up to 10-15 minutes longer if needed depending how dark you’d like your loaf.
Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Dough recipe adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoë François