My friend Jamie (Life’s a Feast) is throwing herself a birthday party for BreadBakingDay this month. A very special bread is therefore in order, and I think this fills the bill. Distinctive in both appearance and taste, it derives an earthy flavor and rich deep brown color from buckwheat flour, and sweetness — but not too much — from toasted walnuts and wine-soaked pears.
Before making these loaves at home, I had made the bread several times at SFBI — including for my bread practical exam — and it never disappoints. As a testament to its universal appeal, I’m thrilled to congratulate my friend and classmate, David E, who just today won the SF Food Wars People’s Choice Honorable Mention with his interpretation of the bread, presented to 200 discerning tasters at the SF Food Wars artisan bread bakedown. Go David and go Pear Buckwheat!
The shaping is quite uncomplicated (see the recipe for instructions), and so is the pear stencil used to decorate the loaf. Don’t think you need to find some fancy pear picture, just draw one freehand. If I — who, if I recall correctly, got a “C” in fruit drawing in fourth grade — can do it, you know there can’t be much to it. Five or six inches tall is about right, and a manila folder works well.
Pear Buckwheat Bread
(Adapted from SFBI)
Yield: 1000 g (2 loaves)
- Ferment buckwheat poolish: 12 – 16 hours
- Mix dough: 10 minutes
- First fermentation : 1.5 hours with a fold at 45 minutes
- Preshape, rest, and shape: 40 minutes
- Proof: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Bake: 35 – 40 minutes
Buckwheat Poolish Ingredients:
- 154 g flour
- 38 g buckwheat flour
- 192 g water
- 0.2 g (1/16 t., or a pinch) instant yeast
Final Dough Ingredients:
- 309 g flour
- 147 g water
- 2.4 g (3/4 t.) instant yeast
- 10 g (1-2/3 t.) salt
- all of the buckwheat poolish (384 g)
- 44 g toasted walnuts, very coarsely chopped
- 103 g dried pears that have been soaked in wine for an hour (weigh after soaking)
- In a bowl, combine the buckwheat poolish ingredients. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 12 – 16 hours. When it is ready to use, the surface of the poolish will be pebbled with bubbles and have a few creases.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine all of the final dough flour, yeast, salt, poolish, and most of the water. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well-incorporated. Adjust the water as needed to achieve a medium consistency dough.
- Continue mixing in low or medium speed to a medium level of gluten development.
- Add the walnuts and pears and mix in low speed just until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment for 1.5 hours, with a fold after the first 45 minutes.
- Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Divide it in half and preshape it into balls. Let rest, covered, for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Shape each ball into a triangle as follows: flatten the dough into a disc, seam side up. Fold in each side, and then the bottom. Make sure the flaps all overlap each other (bottom left photo). Turn the dough over (smooth side up) and gently even up the triangular shape (bottom right photo).
- Place the loaves seam-side-down in a floured couche or floured board and proof, covered, at room temperature for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until the indentation left by a fingertip springs back very slowly.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
- The final shaping and stenciling of the loaves is done on the peel: Gently shape the loaf into a pear by tucking the sides in a bit towards the narrow end and making a dimple in the wide end. Pull out a small bit of dough and roll it between your fingers to form the stem. Place your pear stencil on the loaf and sift flour over the surface; carefully remove the stencil. Score once or twice on each side outside the stenciled area, as shown.
- Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 8 minutes with steam, and another 20 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 10 minutes, with the door ajar. The crust should be a deep brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.