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.