With cooler weather just around the bend, aromatic bread filled with diced apples is just the thing for a late Autumn afternoon. There’s nothing quite like the smell of bread baking when the air is crisp and the wind is blowing outside.
This recipe produces a wonderfully fluffy loaf that isn’t overly sweet, but makes fantastic grilled-cheese sandwiches. Layer Gouda and mozzarella cheese between two moderately thick slices, then lightly grill your sandwich in a bit of butter. You’ll have yourself a delicious twist on an old classic that’s toddler-friendly and mommy-friendly too. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy and I’ve had that extra cup of coffee, I’ll add thin apple slices or caramelized onions between the layers of cheese.
Autumn Apple Bread (My Recipe)
Ingredients: Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 heaping tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 2/3 cup warm milk
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 1/2 cups apples, peeled and diced
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or toasted hazelnuts (skins removed)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
In a large bowl using a whisk or the paddle attachment of a heavy-duty electric mixer, combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, warm water, warm milk and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Allow the mixture to rest while you peel and dice the apples. Add the apples, walnuts or hazelnuts (if using), butter, salt, egg, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and the 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour. Mix well. Add the remaining AP flour 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl forms. If you are doing this by hand, you may need to switch to a wooden spoon.
Switch to the dough hook and knead for 4-5 minutes, adding additional AP flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to prevent sticking. If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes. If any of the fruit falls out, simply push it back in. The dough is ready when it’s smooth to the touch and springs back when pressed. *Note: Although I generally use my stand mixer to knead my dough, I always turn it out onto a floured surface and finish the kneading by hand, for the last minute or so. It’s the best way to know when the dough has been kneaded enough.
Grease a deep container with about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Place the dough in the container, turning once to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Gently deflate the dough with your fingers and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 15 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Lay these ropes side-by-side, not quite touching.
Beginning in the middle and working towards you, braid the lower half of the three ropes. To braid, alternately move the outside ropes over the one in the center – left over, right over, left over -until you come to the end. Now go to the other side of your working space and braid the
other half, this time moving the outside ropes under the center one. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.
Using your hands, lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with about 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Transfer the braid to the pan. Pat your hands on top of the braid so that any oil on your palms is transfered to the dough. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the loaf pan on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until browned and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingers. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer the bread to a cooling rack. Allow to cool before slicing.