Mike Avery's Cranberry Chocolate Loaf
I"m wondering if Mike Avery is lurking today... I'll copy this entire post into an email to him, and then post a reply when I get one.
I'M A NEWBIE at sourdough, but this question doesn't regard THAT part of the bread.
Here we go:
I decided to give Mike Avery's Cranberry Chocolate Loaf  a try today. This is my first attempt at a true sourdough loaf - no added yeast (although my wild yeast starter isn't ready yet, so I had to use my yeasted one... it won't be long now, though!) Oh - I believe my starter is at about 100% hydration (thick pancake batter) Below, you'll see that I didn't add very much flour while kneading, so I'm thinking that it was just about right.
I don't have a stand mixer, so I followed instructions closely, but mixing everything in a bowl then kneading by hand. I watched Mike's Kneading Video  (to refresh my memory) and then followed his procedure... press out, fold back, 1/4 turn. Slowly and rhythmically. The instructions said to knead 12-15 min in a stand mixer - I decided to start with about 25 minutes by hand. At around 20 min, i noticed the dough became smoother but firmer - giving way more freely under pressure, but sticking less to the surface. I thought that "satiny" might be just the term, which is what I had been shooting for - good so far. Over the course of 25 min, I only added 1/4 C. additional flour for kneading - which is good for me - I think I usually end up with bricks partly because I add too much flour. I was proud of myself at this point :-) The dough was quite moist and supple - tacky to my hands, but not to the surface.
I gave it a couple more minutes of kneading then proceeded to add the cranberries and pecans. NOTE: The pecans were my own idea. I thought that since they were very coarsly chopped (not ground) they wouldn't affect the moisture of the loaf too much. Please correct me or point me to more reading if this isn't right. They kneaded in beautifully. Then came the cranberries, and the reason of this posting. They were a disaster. I began to knead them in and the dough fell apart. They were so wet, that by the time I got them all in I felt like I was kneading cake batter! I had drained them and used the juices in the recipe (as directed) and everything was going so well up to this point! I only let myself add 3/4 C. more flour - that was the minimum amount required so I could pick the dough up to transfer it to my greased bowl.
My question - was there something I missed? Has anyone else made this loaf? Did I miss some major direction (like spread the cranberries out on paper towels for a week to dry before adding)? Maybe my starter was too wet? The directions didn't say precisely, but it was measured in cups - it had to be at least pourable, right? My dough is in its first rise now, and I'll let you know how it turns out. If anyone has experience with this recipe, I'd love to hear about it. Again, I'll email this posting to Mike, and let you know if he sheds any light on my plight.