I've learned so much since joining the bread baking group Fresh from the Oven. The monthly challenges have boosted my skills--and confidence with bread. It's my pleasure to host July's Fresh from the Oven challenge.
I picked a whole wheat walnut bread from one of my cookbooks, The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave. It has a nice depth of flavour from the toasted walnuts and a little honey. Whole wheat breads are now my main choice for baking, and using stone-ground whole wheat flour makes this bread even healthier.
Whole Wheat Walnut Bread
adapted from The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave
makes 2 loaves
1 t active dry yeast, divided
2 c (500 ml) lukewarm water (95 - 110F, 35 - 45C), divided
3 c (380 g) plain bread flour, divided
1 T honey
1 T olive or walnut oil
1 1/2 c (180 g) stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/4 c (40 g) semolina flour, oat flour, or more whole wheat flour
1 t sea salt
1 1/2 c (175 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
First prepare the sponge starter. Dissolve 1/2 t yeast in 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Let proof until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 c (190 g) bread flour and stir until a thick batter forms. Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature to rise and bubble for 6 to 8 hours. The starter is ready to use now or can be put in the fridge overnight. (Bring it back to room temperature before using.)
Dissolve the remaining 1/2 t yeast with the 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a large bowl. Let proof for about 5 minutes.
Add the sponge starter and mix well. Stir in the honey, oil, whole wheat flour, semolina flour or oat flour (if using), and salt.
Add 1 1/4 c (160 g) of the remaining bread flour gradually to form a stiff dough.
Add the walnuts.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes, adding as much of the reserved flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Grease the bowl and return the dough, turning it to coat it in oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into two pieces and form into loaves. Place on a baking pan and leave them to rise again, about 30 minutes.
Bake at 400 F/205 C for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack.
The sponge starter (shown above after an eight hour rest) adds a depth of flavour, and I have always baked the loaves this way. I imagine that the recipe could be made without this step, though, by letting it sit for as long as you have time for, and then proceeding with the recipe. I wonder if any of my fellow challengers tried it a quicker way?
The semolina or oat flour is added to give the bread a chewier texture, but using more whole wheat flour is fine, too.
Be sure to visit Fresh from the Oven to see all the other delicious whole wheat walnut bread baked this month!