Super Easy & Delicious Homemade French Walnut Bread

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve missed blogging and feel as though I’m just coming up for air after a long stretch of weekend teaching (just the last two weekends). As a result of ‘working,’ something that I haven’t done for a while, I’ve been neglecting my domestic duties (as Raj points out every time he opens the refrigerator door). What better way to jump back into the swing of things than with home-made bread. Want to be a hero or a goddess in your home? Bake this bread NOW. There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through out of  kitchen and into the rest of the house (apartment in our case).
Now you may be thinking that bread is for bakers (which I aspire to be) and a baker you are not? Never fear! This fabulous book that I’ve just recently cracked open (one of the few to travel with me) makes baking fuss-free and requires no-kneading. Is that even possible? Yes. The secret to this book is through letting the dough slow rise, which allows it to knead itself (it’s magic!). Additionally, most of the recipes are made in one bowl with one spoon–a dream come true for those unfortunate few like myself who lack domestic help (alright, I do have help, but only one day a week) or a dishwasher (I’m still dealing with this one).
For this particular loaf, I used a large Le Creuset pot. I was worried about placing the lid in the over (it has a plastic knob) because the manufacturer claims it can only be heated to 350 degrees and this recipe requires 400 degrees. I’m happy to report that the knob was fine, so you needn’t worry about ruining your $250 pot.
French Walnut Bread from Nancy Baggett’s, Kneadlessly Simple: 
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra if desired
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 tsp. instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
  • 2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
  • Walnut oil or flavorless vegetable oil for coating dough top and baking pot
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh, fine-quality walnut halves
First Rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the whole wheat and white flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Vigorously stir in the water, scraping down the bowl and mixing until the dough is well blended and smooth. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, a bit at a time, stir in just enough more water to blend the ingredients; don’t over-moisten, as the dough should be very stiff. Brush or spray the top with oil. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.

Meanwhile, reserve 4 perfect walnut halves for garnish. Spread the remainder on a baking sheet and lightly toast, stirring several times, in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant and just lightly browned. Let cool. Chop finely (in a food processor, if desired).
Second Rise: Vigorously stir the cooled walnuts into the dough. If it is not stiff, stir in enough more whole wheat flour to make it hard to stir. Using an oiled rubber spatula, lift and fold the dough in towards the center, working all the way around the bowl. Invert it into a well-oiled, then flour-dusted, 3-quart (or larger) heavy metal pot (or use a flat-bottomed round casserole with a lid). Brush or spray the top with oil, then smooth out the surface with an oiled rubber spatula or fingertips. Cut 1/2-inch deep slashes to form an X in the center top; well-oiled kitchen sheers work best. Put the 4 untoasted walnut halves in the angles of the X for garnish; press down very firmly to embed them. Cover the pot with its lid.
Let Rise Using Any of These Methods: For a 1 1/2 – to 2 1/2-hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1 – to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue until the dough doubles from its deflated size.
Baking Preliminaries: 15 minutes before baking time, place a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees. Lightly dust the dough top with whole wheat flour.
Baking: Bake on the lower rack, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few particles clinging to the bottom (or until the center registers 207 to 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Then bake for 5 minutes more to ensure the center is done. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf to the rack, running a knife around the edges to loosen it, if necessary.
Serving and Storing: The loaf tastes and slices best at room temperature. Cool completely before storing airtight in plastic or foil. The bread will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months.

15 thoughts on “Super Easy & Delicious Homemade French Walnut Bread

  1. I’ve missed your blogging and I’m glad you’re back at it! I definitely would have been concerned about the Le Creuset pot also but I’m sure Raj would have sacrificed the pot for the bread. It looks delicious. Did he enjoy it more than the healthy banana bread? Maybe you can work at Buzz when you return? Glad you’ve also been working and staying busy. I’m sure it’s been a nice alternative to sun bathing and yoga. Wait…nope, I’d choose sunbathing and yoga. Too bad we’re having too much rain here for that. I hope the work ends soon so I’ll have more of your blog posts to read!

  2. Thanks for missing me. Yep, work is definitely getting in the way. I’m started to get pale and am in serious need of a lay out session poolside–although I’d much rather go to a real beach, but that won’t happen for a long time. Has your phone started ringing off the hook yet?

    1. Nope, I had one call yesterday but missed it and only saw the voicemail. And Fairfax is closed today because we had massive flooding last night (road closers, flooding in houses, people getting rescued out of their cars in boats), no lie. Please don’t come back to visit too tan, you’ll put Mindy and I to shame.

  3. This looks SO delicious. I cannot wait to try it after my son’s Scouts camping trip this weekend. I’ll be taking it into work and be making some teachers very happy!
    Yes, missed your blogs so much! It’s like having yummy creamer in your coffee every day and then all of a sudden, black coffee. Where’d the creamer go? LOL. Glad you carved out some time to feed our need for your blogs!
    And congrats on job. I hope it is turning out to be better than the one you interviewed for that was not what you were expecting.

    1. Thanks, Kim. I love your analogy because we don’t get yummy creamer here. In fact, I’ve given up coffee all together here just because I can’t drink it without the unhealthy, unnatural fake CoffeeMate fat free vanilla or hazelnut.
      How are your classes going?

      1. Thanks for asking about my classes. So far, so good. The first week was merely a teacher orientation class which was simple enough. Now I’m in the GEN/200 studying learning styles, etc. It’s going good! It’s nice to have one class at a time and to focus only on that one subject. I went through college in a classroom setting, though, so it’s definitely different to be in an online program for the BSLS. :o)

  4. Jen, I’ve missed your blogging, also. The bread looks delicious, but I just made 2 delicious loaves of banana nut bread this morning. I have heard that if you cover the knob on top with heavy duty foil it will not melt or harm it. There is my Annie’s tip for the day.

    1. Thanks, Mom. I read that too about foil on the lid and am going to try it with a bread that’s rising right now. It cooks in the pan at 500 degrees F, so I’m a little worried about it, but I’ll try it out.

  5. How come you didn’t credit me with the “go ahead and use the Le Cruset for this recipe” tip. I am a little disappointed that you didn’t reference me. It never occurred to me that you couldn’t put the lid in the oven at that high of a temperature. Make the Porteguese cornbread next and the recipe with the stout. Also the bread recipe with the rosemary is awesome. I thought you were going to try the fancy fougasse or whatever it’s called.

    1. I’ll give you partial credit, but mom gets some too. She told me the same thing. BTW, I tried the honey wheat bread and had to throw it out because I made a mistake after the first step. Her directions aren’t very clear and I wasted 18 hours for nothing. Instead I switched gears and went to the Cook’s Illustrated baking book and made their ‘almost-no-knead’ whole wheat bread with beer.’ It was much easier; same idea too in that it cooks in the le Crueset pot. I’ll post it later.

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