Cranberry and Walnut bread
I know a lot of you have bought lots of flour, come on admit it and you are now stuck with too much...
Well, my friends, I have the perfect solution for your hoarded plunder! A simple, beautiful and delicious NO KNEAD artisan walnut and cranberry bread. You can enjoy it for breakfast, morning tea, or afternoon tea.
The recipe called for a dutch oven pot but who has a spare $600 to buy one of those? I bought an el-cheapo, imitation, Kmart dutch oven pot (basically a heavy-duty pot) and it worked perfectly.
I have had to stop making this bread because I can't stop at one slice and, besides, every time I make bread I now think of Hugh Jackman...
BREAD AND HUGH JACKMAN (FRIEND OR FOE?)
Bread, beloved of billions but at the same time the source of so much inner discomfort to so many. So appealing to the eye, the perfect accompaniment to all things, sweet or savoury. So much so that even those of us who are gluten-challenged will throw caution to the wind, just to taste it on our lips once more.
Which is, maybe, why it reminds me of Hugh Jackman.
A few months ago, very early in the morning, I was sitting at a cafe in Bondi Beach looking at bread recipes for inspiration, sipping on my coffee when in walks non-other than Hugh Jackman, with his wife, Deborah, and they sit down right next to me. I have seen a few movie stars in my lifetime and I rarely get star-struck, and I have NEVER approached them or asked them for an autograph. But this is HUGH JACKMAN, the one actor we all love in my family, especially one of my boys. But to me, he was even more than that: a symbol of hope. You see, when my ex-husband left the country unexpectedly, I was devastated for my children. Their pain was so palpable, I found it unbearable. I remember thinking it will be alright but I wasn’t really feeling it. Then one day, not long after my ex left, I was watching an interview with Hugh Jackman and he shared how his mum had left him and his brothers and how tough it had been but that he had still got through it. It made me feel so hopeful and positive. I had to let him know…
I could think if nothing else and a non-stop conversation was running in my head. Nava, don’t be a pain in the arse, let the poor man eat with his wife in peace.
'Yeah, yeah, sure, but I NEVER do this, and I’ll only be two seconds...' this went on for five minutes before I blurted out, “Hugh Jackman, I’m so sorry I don’t mean to intrude, but...” and I told him how sharing his story about his mum had helped me. He looked at me and thanked me, saying how touched he was.
So I left him alone but then the voice in my head opened it’s big mouth again: 'my son would LOVE a photo…'
'No, Nava, stop being a pain.'
'BUT just ONE quick photo and then I’ll even leave the cafe.'
I was driving myself nuts, so I got up, packed my things and was heading for the door when my mouth (which has a mind of its own) blurted out “I’m going to be a pain again,” I stuttered, “I swear I have never done this and you don’t have to say yes, I will understand but would you, could you, I mean would it be okay to get a photo with you, my son would just LOVE IT.
He looked at me he smiled and said a resounding, "NO!"
To ME! Who could have imagined that? Not me, apparently and I just wanted to DIE. I “Of course, I understand, I’m so sorry,” I blurted, as I turned to run out the door.
But quick as a wolverine, he grabbed my hand and said, “I can’t take a photo with you because if I took a photo then I will have to take one with everyone, but please tell your son I said hi.”
I thanked him, apologised again, ran past the cashier threw my money at the counter and stumbled out the door.
Immediately I called my son and told him, “Guess who says hi!”
“You heard me”
I told him the whole story (well, the Disney version anyway) and hung up
Walking home I started going over what had happened, 'What a sweet guy, I thought, he didn’t have to give me an excuse for not taking a photo...'
Ten steps down the road, 'I understand that if he took a photo with me he would have to take a photo with the others but there were only three other people in the café: a couple who only had eyes for each other, and an elderly chap who was using a magnifying glass to read the paper. He wouldn’t have noticed King Kong unless he sat on him.'
'Still he was nice about it...'
Another ten steps nice? 'Nice? If he was so nice he would have taken the photo!'
Ten steps on: 'Actually would it have killed him to take one lousy photo? He saw how nervous I was…'
Another ten steps: 'Everyone says he is a nice guy, but I’m not sure I agree anymore…'
Five steps: 'Nice guy, my foot...'
The rest of the way home I’m still regurgitating the story when I walk in the house and another one of my boys is standing there beaming at me:
“Mum, I believe you met Hugh Jackman!”
“Who? That so and so!”
3 cups + 2 Tablespoons plain flour + a little for your hands (this dough is sticky)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
3/4 cup dried cranberries (if you want something sweeter you can use sultanas or just leave them out)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
Stir the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in the warm water. The dough will be pretty sticky– DON'T add more flour (I know it’s tempting) you want a sticky dough. Gently shape into a ball as best you can. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set on the counter at room temperature and allow to rise for 12-18 hours. The dough will double in size, stick to the sides of the bowl, and be covered in air bubbles.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using lightly floured hands, shape into a ball as best you can. Doesn’t have to be perfect! Transfer dough to a large piece of baking paper. (Large enough to fit inside your pot.
Using a very sharp knife, gently score an X into the top. Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap and leave alone for 30 minutes.
During this 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 246°C (Yep, very hot!) Place your 'dutch oven’ or a heavy-duty pot with the lid in the oven for 30 minutes so that it’s extremely hot before the dough is placed inside. After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the oven and carefully lift the dough with the baking paper and place the dough with the baking paper inside the pot. Cover with the lid.
Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Carefully remove the lid and continue baking for 8-10 more minutes until the bread is golden brown. Remove pot from the oven, carefully remove the bread from the pot, and allow to cool on the counter for 30 minutes before slicing.
This bread can be stored, covered at room temperature for 1 week.
PS - I love hearing from you! Let me know how it went and feel free to spread the word/passion/love, the more the merrier!