After a revelatory experience with a batch of buttermilk-infused white bread, I decided to keep going. I was on a roll, a loaf run, a trail of bread crumbs. (Okay, okay, I'll stop.) Aside from my excitement level that was running on a bread-adrenalin high, I wanted to see what it would be like to bake bread two consecutive days in a row.
With a soft crumb that made me nostalgic for Pepperidge Farm's "Very Thin White Bread" (white paper lining wrapped inside plastic bag), the buttermilk white was a bit tangy by its lonesome, but I loved it with jam, and saw promise in its toastability. Yesterday's lunch was one slice folded over, bookending a piece of leftover roast chicken -- a pairing that was reminiscent of a steamed Chinese bun -- sweet, soft and well, maybe too soft for everyday use.
That mindful discovery is perhaps one of the great things about making bread. Don't like your loaf? Betcha five bucks someone else will, a gift that most gluten-eating creatures would cherish. Alternatively, allow your loaf to stale and then whiz it into bread crumbs for later use. Then move on. There's a bread recipe for every day of the year, for perhaps the rest of your life.
After my run with something new, I yearned for something more familiar, a tried-and-true fave that would sing, "Good morning, sunshine!" to me.
The answer was an Italian-style walnut-raisin bread made with mostly whole-wheat flour, also from Beth Hensperger's "The Bread Bible." Typically, I shy away from whole-wheat breads, as I find them too dense, but this version is tender and mild, with a softer crust and that hit parade of raisins and walnuts, which means breakfast is ready.
Although scrumptious all by its lonesome (even stale!), this baby, I've discovered is a great partner with cheese. A little gorgonzola dolce, perhaps? Even a spreadable goat cheese would be a dreamy topper.
One baking note: When adding the fruit and nuts, do make sure you press into the dough. I learned the hard way and had lots of flyaway filling when I sliced into a previous loaf. Also, think smallish. For some reason, this recipe doesn't do as well when dough is shaped into large loaves. I'm not sure why.
With a few loaves in my bread box, I'm off the dough hook (at least for a few days) and tomorrow's post will be wildly different.
P.S.: I received a few comments about gluten-free loaves. Your concerns are being heard. Stay tuned in weeks ahead.
P.P.S.: If raisins make you gag, tell me what you wanna learn how to do. I'm open to all kinds of dough possibilities.
Italian Walnut-Raisin Whole-Wheat Bread
From "The Bread Bible" by Beth Hensperger
2 ½ cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
pinch light brown sugar or 1 teaspoon honey
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups fine-grind whole-wheat flour, preferably stone ground
1 ½ -1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups (10 ounces) dark raisins, plumped in hot water 1 hour and drained on paper towels (KOD note: I've reduced amount to 1 ¼ cups and did not feel cheated of fruit)
Scant 2 cups chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, for sprinkling
2 tablespoons, wheat bran, for sprinkling
In a small bowl, pour in ½ cup of the warm water. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, until 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl (or in the work bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine remaining 2 cups warm water, olive oil, honey, salt and 2 cups of whole-wheat flour. Add yeast mixture. Beat vigorously until smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Add unbleached flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.
Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead about six minutes, until soft and springy yet resilient to the touch, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent sticking. Dough should retain a smooth, soft quality, with some tackiness under the surface, yet still hold its shape. Do not add too much flour, or loaf will be too dry and hard to work.
Place dough in a greased deep bowl or container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap (KOD note: I also cover the bowl with a kitchen towel.) . Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2- 2 1/2 hours.
Grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. Sprinkle whole-wheat flour and wheat bran on the baking sheet.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface without punching it down. Pat it into a large oval and sprinkle even with half the drained raisins and half the walnuts. Press nuts and fruit into the dough and roll dough up. Pat dough into an oval again and sprinkle it evenly with remaining raisins and walnuts. Press in and fold dough in half, sealing ends.
With a dough cutter, divide dough into 2 or 3 equal portions. Shape into 2 tight right round loaves or 2 baguettes about 14 inches long. Gently pull surface taut from the bottom.
Place loaves on prepared pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes-1 hour.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a serrated knife, slash the loaves quickly with 2 parallel lines and one intersecting line no more than ¼ inch deep.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake until loaves are brown, crusty and sound hollow when tapped with your finger, 35-40 minutes for round loaves, 25-30 minutes for baguettes.
Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.
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Posted by: Occasional baker, but pretty good | January 10, 2007 11:08 AM
Posted by: Southern Maryland | January 10, 2007 11:46 AM
Posted by: Columbia MO | January 10, 2007 11:54 AM
Posted by: Need some sunshine! | January 10, 2007 12:08 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 10, 2007 2:49 PM
Posted by: breadlover | January 10, 2007 4:40 PM
Posted by: Raisins DO make me gag | January 11, 2007 10:23 AM
Posted by: cariusocm | January 11, 2007 3:58 PM
Posted by: kc | January 17, 2007 3:07 PM
Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | January 17, 2007 3:11 PM
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