Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Walnut Bread: The Best Bread I've Ever Made

The use of the word "best" in the subtitle of this post has 2 meanings:

1. This is the most successful bread I've ever made--I didn't let it rise too long, causing it to collapse into a dense, flat disc, as I tend to do when making bread.

2. This is the
best bread I've ever made, as in delicious. Soooo good.

I saw this beautiful braided loaf in last month's Cooking Light as part of the Thanksgiving special. A massive storm today kept me at home, so at last I had a chance to try it, and I'm so glad I did. All of the ingredients are things I keep in my pantry, (no shopping, hooray!) and it didn't have too many complicated rising/resting intervals, which are often my downfall.

The crash of pans from the kitchen soothes Erik to sleep

The only tricky thing was that the recipe formulated for a stand mixer with a dough hook which sadly I do not have (Santa?), so I kneaded it by hand for a good long while, which seemed to do the trick. The only suggestion I will make before giving you the recipe is that if you also have to knead by hand like me, add the walnuts in at the same time as the flour, because once the dough is elastic-y I didn't have the easiest time working them into the dough. I will also note that I have been completely unable to find whole wheat pastry flour, which it calls for, so I used plain old King Arthur whole wheat flour and I am completely satisfied with the results, so don't let that little detail deter you! And without further ado, I present you:

Braided Walnut Loaves (Cooking Light, November 2009)
2 loaves, 16 servings per loaf

* 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
* 1 cup boiling water
* 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
* 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)

* 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
* 6 tablespoons honey
* 3 tablespoons canola oil
* 20.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 cups), divided
* 9 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 2 cups)

* 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
* Cooking spray (or sil-mat or parchment paper)

1. Place oats in a food processor; pulse 8 times or until coarsely chopped. Combine chopped oats and 1 cup boiling water in a medium bowl; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes.

3. Add buttermilk to oat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in honey and oil. Add the oat mixture to yeast mixture; mix with dough hook attachment until combined.
4. Weigh or lightly spoon 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) and whole-wheat pastry flour in dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours with salt. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture. Mix dough at medium speed 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding remaining all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to sides of bowl. Add walnuts; mix at medium speed just until combined.
5. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)
6. Preheat oven to 400°

7. Punch dough down; divide in half. Divide each half into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), shape each portion into a 14-inch rope. Place 3 ropes lengthwise on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (do not stretch). Pinch ends together at one end to seal. Braid ropes, and pinch loose ends together to seal. Repeat procedure with remaining dough to form another braid. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 
My oven is a little...smaller...than most. Takes some creative positioning to fit 2 pans at once.
8. Spritz top and sides of loaves lightly with water from a spray bottle. Bake on center rack of oven at 400° for 28 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

No comments:

Post a Comment