Having discovered William Woys Weaver’s cookbooks was providential. They are well-researched food history and lore, about a cuisine I grew up with – good, basic, seasonal and close to the farm Pennsylvania Dutch food. Recently, I acquired his 2016 book, Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens, about Pennsylvania Dutch baking – breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and puddings. One bread recipe popped out immediately – Apple Bread, otherwise known as Schnitzerei Brod. I must have been thinking along these lines – bread and apples – based on an experimental apple fermented sourdough bread that stuck in my mind after it appeared on Facebook a while ago in Maree Tink’s group, Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand.
Schnitzerei Brod, according to Woys Weaver, was first documented in German in an almanac in western Pennsylvania in 1856. The word Schnitzerei is probably comes from the Pennsylvania Dutch word, snitz, a dried slice of apple which in turn comes from the German word schnitzen meaning to slice. Woys Weaver also indicates that schnitzing parties were common in Pennsylvania Dutch country communities during apple season where swags of apple slices were hung up to dry, and many apple preserves made. Not surprisingly, this bread is delicious sliced, toasted and smeared with that other quintessential Pennsylvania Dutch spead, apple butter.
Sourdough Apple Bread
Buoyed by my success of converting Amish inspired Chestnut & Potato Pull-Apart Rolls to a sourdough version, I’ve adapted it to Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Bread.
- 225g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
- 240g apple purée
- 475g flour
- 8g sugar
- 8g sea salt
- 50g warm unsweetened apple juice, apple tea, or water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 4g melted butter plus 8g milk for the finishing glaze
In a large bowl, measure out your freshly feed sourdough starter. Add the flour, sugar, sea salt and optional cinnamon. Combine the apple purée with the juice, tea or water. Make sure that your apple purée is at room temperature before starting.
Mix until the dough is incorporated and it begins to lift from the side of the bowl. More flour or more liquid might be required to get the right texture. Put the dough out onto a floured surface and stretch and pull the dough, turning 90 degrees each time until the gluten strands form and the dough is soft and not too sticky. Place back into a clean oiled bowl, turning the dough so that the surface is lightly covered in oil. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a convenient shower cap. Place in a warm place until doubled in volume.
Take your dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently shape into a loaf and score the top. Place in a cast iron pot and cover.
Put the pot in a cold oven. Turn on the temperature to 230 degrees C (approx. 450 degrees F) fan assisted and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. You may need to adjust times and temperatures for your oven.
Remove the bread from the pot by tipping it out. While still warm, brush the top with a mixture of melted butter and warm milk. This will keep the crust soft.
Let the loaf cool on a rack. Wrap and refrigerate. The loaf will remain fresh for several days and becomes easy to cut into thin slices for toasting once chilled. Or, the loaf can be frozen for future use. It makes an excellent toast for breakfast.