Cranberry Walnut Bread

Bread scares us, it relies too heavily on conditions beyond our control. Is the room too hot? Too cold? Is the yeast still active? And even if the dough seems stringy and flexible and it's risen considerably -- is there any way to really know whether the lump of wet flour will become into a fluffy and beautiful loaf?

We suffered a fright yesterday. Our recipe said that the dough would rise in two to three hours, but it didn't. With no clue what to do, we guessed, kneading it down and then letting continue to rise for another four hours after that, until it had sufficiently doubled in size. Miraculously, it turned out. This always happens to us; disaster looms until the last minute and then somehow it all works. How? To quote a favorite movie: I don't know, it's a mystery.

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts

Pulse flour and yeast together in the food processor for 5 seconds. Add water and pulse again until the dough forms a shaggy, sticky ball. Remove from the food processor, and add the nuts and cranberries. Place the dough ball in a bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap or a towel. Let sit for 2-3 hours, until the ball has doubled in size. If yours doesn't seem to be rising well, consider punching down or kneading it (requires more flour) and letting it continue to rise -- don't rush it into the oven. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the oven to 350 and bake for an additional 25 minutes, till the crust has lightly browned. Remove, cool, slice, serve.