Now that the holidays are over I feel a little blah, anyone else? I’m not sure if it’s the end of all the holiday excitement and now all that’s left is just, well, cold, dark winter (over dramatic? Maybe?!)!! Either way I’m having a hard time dragging myself out of bed and getting the day going – I wish I could just hibernate and wake when spring has arrived! Until then I suppose I will do my best to keep my belly full and my mind positive.
On these cold, bitter -24 days I find inspiration in my cookbooks and a classic that I can sit and read over and over is Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller. The techniques, skill and passion in this book are so inspiring and you feel a part of it as you read his stories throughout the cookbook. It reminds me of my days in baking school and one of my favourite classes; the art of bread! The abundance of information will inspire any baker to learn how to prepare and make their very own poolish. It’s been a while since I’ve made bread and I didn’t realize how much I miss making it. Although I did not use a recipe from the book, not for today at least, I did find lots of inspiration. For simplicity I made a simple yeast bread, full of flavour that I know you will want to try this winter.
In all honesty, I was a little worried at how the bread would turn out. It has been a while and my yeast had expired but I decided to go ahead and use it anyways (it was too cold to go outside and get more). But even though my bread didn’t rise as much as I liked, I was still really pleased with how it turned out! I love the heartiness the whole wheat flour brings, the nutty crunch of walnuts and the sweetness of the honey. Not to mention you brush the top of the bread with honey which gives a sticky and sweet outer layer. Another mistake I made while making this bread was forgetting to add the walnuts!!! Yes I know a silly mistake – it is walnut bread! Sometimes I can forget the simplest steps when I’m doing too much and normally that involves taking photographs; I get wrapped up in trying to capture the perfect images that I can forget steps. So I decided to add the nuts in the second rise – and, well, I still think the bread turned out beautifully so I’m not upset about it! Overall I guess winter isn’t so bad when you can stay inside and eat fresh warm bread from the oven!! Stay warm out there and happy baking!
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1½ - 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup full milk at room temperature
- ⅓ cup liquid honey (divided)
- 2 Tablespoons melted butter (Stirling Farm House)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- In a large bowl add yeast, warm water and sugar. Let rest until frothy and bubbly, approx. 5-10 minutes.
- Add whole wheat flour, 1½cups all-purpose flour (reserve the other ½ cup and add flour if needed once you get to the kneading step) milk, ¼ cup of the honey, butter, salt and walnuts. Using a wooden spoon mix dough until ragged. Turn out onto a work surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic, approx. 10 minutes (this is where you add extra flour if the dough is too sticky (you can also use your mixer, using the dough hook to knead the dough).
- Place dough into a greased large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, approx. 1-2 hours.
- Line or grease a baking sheet and set aside.
- Once dough has doubled, on a lightly floured work surface punch dough down. Divide dough in half and shape each piece into a rectangle (approx. 11 x 8 inch). Starting at the narrow end, roll into a cylinder and pinch ends to seal. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheet (leave lots of room between each loaf). Cover with plastic and let rest until doubled in size, approx. 30 minutes - 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Once doubled, make a slash along the top of the bread using an extremely sharp knife, slice on a diagonal.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of warm water with the leftover honey and gently brush the tops of the bread.
- Place in the middle of the oven and bake for approx. 25 minutes until bread is golden, crisp and sounds hollow when tapped. Note: to get a crispy outside I use a water spray bottle and spray water in the oven creating steam. I spray the bottom and the sides and quickly close the oven door. Avoid spraying lights in the oven. I do this approx. 4-5 times throughout the baking time.
- Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5-10 minutes before enjoying.