About a year ago we got some New Zealand 42 below vodka and we managed to drink about two thirds of it. I don’t know why we left the rest of it - a very unusual situation in our household! Anyway, I was baking a lot of sweet goodies around that time, using real vanilla pods and we decided to experiment with adding used vanilla pods to the remaining vodka to see what that’s going to do to the flavour. A year later I discovered the bottle at the back of the drinks cabinet and it is just like a very concentrated, very alcoholic vanilla essence. I don't suggest you start prepping a year before making this bread, so you can just use vanilla vodka or regular vodka and a teaspoon of vanilla. However, if you do use vanilla in your baking, I definitely recommend you use real vanilla pod and make the full use of them by storing used vanilla pods in either vodka or sugar to make vanilla flavoured vodka or vanilla sugar.
Vodka Cranberry Bread
100g white starter (100% hydration)
20g vanilla vodka
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt
100g dried cranberries
50g unsalted butter, softened
60g brown sugar
You might think its an odd combination, but I can’t drink cocktails at the moment, so I’ve decided I might as well make cocktail-themed bread. Sea breeze works well as a cocktail, why wouldn’t it work as a bread?
Place starter, water, milk, vodka and flours into a mixing bowl of a free standing mixer and mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes. Leave to autolise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. Add salt, brown sugar and dried cranberries and mix for a minute on speed 2. With the mixer still running, add butter bit by bit, to make sure that each bit of butter is well incorporated before adding more in. Total mixing time on speed 2 should not exceed 3 minutes, to prevent dough from over-mixing.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half, every thirty minutes, covering between each stretch and fold. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and leave it to prove at room temperature for 4 hours to 6 hours, until the dough doubles in size.
Again, it was getting late and I didn’t wait for the dough to completely double in size, and shaped it as it was – in an oval shape, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
In the morning take the shaped dough out of the fridge and leave it to warm up at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until it doubles in volume in the banneton.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C, about an hour before you want to bake. Slash the loaf.
Bake for 40 minutes, rotating it half way through to ensure even baking, until the loaf is nice and brown colour.
This is a beauty of a bread – cranberry and vanilla flavour really make through during the baking, and the vanilla flavour got even stronger a couple of days in.
I might experiment a bit more, adding a bit more vanilla vodka, to see how much it can take without being too over-powering. I had it for my morning with just butter, it doesn’t need anything else, balance of sugar and fruits is just perfect.