turkish pear coffee bread #TwelveLoaves

More than any other food–apples, pumpkins, cranberries or what have you–pears to me mean that fall is right around the corner. I adore fall and I adore pears, all varieties and in all forms. Nothing compares to their juicy sweetness, so when Twelve Loaves chose pears as the September theme I was a happy camper. I've made dozens of pear recipes but surprisingly, never a pear yeast bread and that's what I had in mind. So out came the books and I found one that intrigued me, from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François.

Now I know the Bread in 5 series gets a lot of flack from a few Serious Bakers, and it's really unjustified, in my (not so) humble opinion. When you get right down to it, is their method much different from Jim Lahey's or Ken Forkish's or any other baker who espouses the no-knead philosophy? Can something that encourages people to bake their own bread be bad? Methinks not. In fact, when I decided to start baking again, Bread in 5 is where I started. Once I felt comfortable with bread baking, I moved on to more in-depth study and more complex methods, but I still almost always have a bucket of Bread in 5 dough in my fridge, because whipping up a fresh loaf of bread in under an hour? Yes, please. Oh well. There are Snobby McSnobbersons in just about every discipline and I guess bread baking is no different. What it really comes down to is, whether  every bread you bake is from Bread in 5 or if you schedule your entire social life around feeding your starters twice a day, WE'RE BAKING! And that's good. Now gather 'round the campfire, boys and girls, and let's sing Kumbaya! We CAN all get along.

Anyway…the bread that caught my eye is called Turkish pear coffee bread. And to be honest, I was more intrigued by it in a "what's under that rock" way, than an "OMG, THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE BEST BREAD EVAR!" way. Because it's made with ground coffee. Yes, ground coffee. And we've probably all had the unfortunate experience of mistakenly sucking down cold coffee grounds from the bottom of a take-out cup and, well…yuck. But on the other hand, we've got pear puree! Cardamom! Brown sugar! Yogurt! All good stuff. And all of that tipped the scales in favor of going for it. Plus, the pears weren't just bits kneaded or rolled into the dough; the pear puree was an integral part of the dough itself.

Like most Bread in 5 recipes, this one was quick and easy, and since the recipe is enough for four 1-pound loaves, I decided to make a tester, just to see if it was blog-worthy. I wanted to make two 2-pounders and, because the authors note that this bread tends to spread out rather than rise up, I thought I'd try braiding it to see if that would help give it some height. It's a fairly wet dough that resulted in a flat, rough looking braid but, hey! RUSTIC!

Well. Let me say this. Even though it ended up being over-proofed and therefore excessively flat (a small incident involving cats and a broken bottle of fish sauce diverted my attention), this bread is stellar. It's not a typical light and fluffy yeast bread, that's for sure, but what it is is incredibly moist with a hint of sweetness and flavors that are subtle and ever-changing with each bite. You can definitely identify the individual ingredients–the pear, the coffee, the cardamon–yet they all come together to create a unique blended flavor as well. My fear of crunching on coffee grounds was unfounded; the coffee is completely integrated and aside from giving the bread an interesting appearance and enhancing the overall flavor, the grounds themselves are undetectable. To say that this bread got raves from my taste-testing crew (Rule One: You eat my bread, you must give me your honest feedback in return) would be a huge understatement. Everyone loved it.

This was such a hit that, of course, I had to start messing with it. My second batch of dough was a bit of a fail. I decided to add pieces of dried pear to the dough and soaked them first. It was a mistake for two reasons. One, the pears softened to the point that they almost disintegrated and two, although I tried to drain them, the soaked pears added even more wetness to an already wet dough, Then, the pears I used to make the puree were a little too large and made way more puree than I needed, but instead of adding it a little at a time, I mistakenly dumped it all in at once. Between the extra puree and the no longer dried pears, I ended up with a blob of dough that was nearly impossible to form up. I baked it anyway, in a 3-qt enameled cast iron pot lined with parchment, and while it did eventually reach final temperature, it was so wet that it sunk in on itself. Le sigh. It did still taste good, but it was way too dense. For the third go-round, I again added the dried pears but didn't soak them beforehand, chose pears for the puree that were small-to-medium sized and after baking up a test loaf (another braid, still too flat for my liking), chalked it up as a win taste-wise. I baked my last bread in the 3-qt pot again and while it didn't collapse on itself this time, it was still too dense on the bottom (you can definitely see this in one photo). The lesson here? Don't get cocky. After trying several times to get some height into this bread, I've come to the conclusion that it's better to just accept its inherent flatness and not try to make it do something it wasn't meant to. I don't think the heavy wetness of this dough can support the extra height. Live and learn. But don't let my experimenting put you off this wonderful bread. When baked as recommended, it comes out just fine with no dense bits, and If time hadn't run out, I would have baked up a fourth batch per instructions so I could get some better photos.

You can see the issue with the density of the dough towards the bottom. It's just too wet and heavy to support the extra height. So flat it shall be…

Now while this bread is certainly good enough on its own, I decided to up the pear quotient anyway and made a spiced pear butter to go along. The resulting combo was out of this world, just an overload of pear-y goodness. It was a real challenge not to consume mass quantities of pear bread and butter in one sitting. So here's an invitation to all–especially any snooty anti-Bread-in-5ers who may be lurking out there–to make this bread and see for yourself. No, this definitely won't be the prettiest bread you'll ever bake (in fact, I think it's kind of an ugly duckling) but I can almost guarantee that it will be one of the tastiest. The aroma alone as it's baking will win you over and the flavor will seal the deal.

turkish pear coffee bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp ground coffee (regular grind)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 3 ripe pears, cored and pureed with skin (small to medium)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use safflower)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 plain yogurt (any kind, fat-free or not)

Topping

  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water)
  • Raw sugar

Directions

  1. Add all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl or container (I use a 6 qt. Cambro) and mix together.
  2. Puree the pears in a blender, then add the remaining wet ingredients and pulse briefly to combine.
  3. Add the puree to the dry ingredients and mix together with a mixer, a spoon, your hands or a dough whisk (my preference). If you're not using a mixer, you may need to use your hands to get the last bits of flour incorporated but make sure no dry spots remain.
  4. Cover loosely and set aside at room temperature for about two hours, until the dough rises and falls (mine never did).
  5. Refrigerate the dough in a lidded but not air-tight container (if you use the Cambro, this is perfect for storage as well as mixing) and use within five days.
  6. When ready to bake, flour the surface of the refrigerated dough and cut off a 1-pound portion. Flour the piece of dough and stretch and tuck into into a round.
  7. Place the ball on a sheet of parchment, cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 90 minutes.
  8. About 30 minutes before the end of the resting time, place a baking stone on rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350°
  9. Just before the bread goes into the oven, brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle on the sugar, then slash the loaf diagonally a couple of time.
  10. Slide the loaf into the oven directly onto the baking stone (a pizza peel works great for this). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the bread is deep brown and feels firm. It's also recommended that you remove the parchment and place the loaf directly on the stone about 2/3 of the way through the baking time.
  11. When done, cool completely on a wire rack.

Adapted from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François

spiced pear butter

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1" pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp chai spice (more or less to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp loose chai tea (or 2 chai teabags)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, seed scraped
  • juice of 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Place the chai spices and tea into a filter bag or tie into several layers of cheesecloth.
  2. Add the pears, water, chai spice/tea packet to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the pears are soft and easily mashed. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature while the chai spice/tea steeps.
  3. After the pears have cooled, remove the tea/spice packet, then puree the pears in a blender until smooth.
  4. Return the pureed pears to the sauce pan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the puree has reduced to a jam-like consistency. This can take a while, 2 to 3 hours or more, depending on how thick you like it (I like mine very thick).
  5. Once it's reach the desired consistency, remove from heat and transfer the butter to a storage jar and refrigerate. It will keep for about 3 weeks.

chai spice blend

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 vanilla bean cut in small pieces
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into small pieces
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 7 allspice berries
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns

Directions

  1. Use a spice grinder to grind all ingredients into a fine powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container

Adapted from about.com

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About #Twelve Loaves

#TwelveLoaves -September: Hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. Welcome, fall baking! The month of August was all about baking with fresh, summer herbs. September is all about baking with PEARS!  Whatever you bake, (yeasted, quick bread, crackers, muffins, braids, flatbreads, etc) have fun and let's have a delicious month of bread with Pears. Let's get baking!

If you’d like to add your bread to the collection with the Linky Tool this month, here’s what you need to do!

1. When you post your Twelve Loaves bread on your blog, make sure that you mention the Twelve Loaves challenge in your blog post; this helps us to get more members as well as share everyone's posts. Please make sure that your bread is inspired by the theme!

2. Please link your post to the linky tool at the bottom of my blog. It must be a bread baked to the Twelve Loaves theme.

3. Have your Twelve Loaves bread that you baked this September 2014, and posted on your blog by September 30, 2014.

#TwelveLoaves runs smoothly with the help of our bakers.  A big thanks to Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla for hosting our event!

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of girlichef.