I really enjoy working on yeasted breads. There is something very satisfying about taking a few ingredients, lavishing a little care on them and turning out a masterpiece of home baking. While this bread is a bit time consuming and does require a bit of advanced planning it is certainly far from being difficult. It’s not a bread that I would make every week but it is perfect for those rainy, cold weekends when your forced to stay inside. With just a small amount of effort you can easily turn out a first rate product while still not interrupting your normal routine.
Begin by making a biga, which is just flour, water and a small amount of yeast. I always view a biga primarily as a flavor enhancer while giving a bit of extra leavening. This is left to proof for about 6 hours and can then be left in the refrigerator to ferment and intensify for up to 3 days.
When the biga is ready the final dough is made. Add the biga to water, then add flour and yeast and mix to form a rough dough. Add the salt and knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic. Rest the dough for 20 minutes and then add the fruit and nuts and knead until well distributed. Set the dough in a proofing box until doubled. Stretch and fold the dough to redistribute the fruit and once again set it in a proofing box to double.
When the dough has doubled, rest it for 20 minutes and then shape it by forming a rectangle, fold down the top corners to form a triangle. Lay the apricots along the bottom of the triangle and then roll the dough down from the top to form a loaf. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes and then bake until golden brown.
I couldn’t find pumpernickel flour so I used rye flour and let my biga ferment for 3 days. I also gave my dough a second overnight rise in the refrigerator. I admit that I overproofed my dough before forming the loaf and my final product had a flat dense texture. It tasted okay but not spectacular. I think that the rye flour was a bit too strong and the 3 day ferment was a bit too much as the final loaf had a slightly bitter aftertaste. I made a second loaf and this time I only let the biga ferment for 1 day. I also didn’t give the dough an overnight rise and the taste of this loaf was much better and closer to what I was expecting with no bitter aftertaste.