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Walnut bread

May 11, 2012

Oaty, wholemeal bread dotted with chewy walnuts makes for a wonderful bread
perfect for smothering with pate or toasted with cheese

When serving up a fishy pate or a baked cheese I like to offer a really nice bread to scoop up the flavoursome goodness. Crusty white bread is gorgeous and has it's place (for me it's stuffed with ham and salad!) but to compliment and support a mackerel pate or a baked camembert you cannot beat this walnut loaf.

Recipe:

500g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 packet/7g of fast action dried yeast
a glug of olive oil
250-300ml of warm water
100g walnut halves

Turn on the oven to its lowest setting, mine is 50c, and pop a deep baking tray full of warm water in the bottom of the oven. This will create a warm damp 'rising cupboard' to prove your bread later.. or if you're lucky enough to have an airing cupboard just use that.

On a large, flat surface pour out your flour, sprinkle on your salt, sugar and yeast the mix in until evenly spread through the flour. Make a pile from your flour then dig a well in the middle of it, pour about a third of the water and all of the oil into the middle of the well, using a fork or your fingers begin to mix some of the flour from the inside of the 'wall' into the liquid. It will begin as a sticky mess but as you gradually mix in more of the flour it will become more like a thick paste. As the paste becomes stiffer, add the water bit by bit, continue mixing and adding water until all the water is absorbed.
Now you should have a dough, albeit a very sticky dough! Cover your hands with flour and ensure the surface is lightly dusted at all times or its all going to get a bit messy! Knead the dough by pushing it out across the surface then scooping it back and folding it over on itself. As first you will think, oh my god my kitchen table is ruined what is this mental woman talking about, but as you continue to do this the gluten in the flour will develop and the dough will become stretchier, more elastic and importantly, less sticky!
With the walnuts, you want to crush some into a dry rice like consistency, break some in half and leave some whole. This will give you a lovely nutty flavour as well as a good variety of walnutty texture.
Knead the dough for a good 10-15mins until it is beautifully soft and elastic. Form it into the shape you would like on a well oiled tray, allowing room for expansion. Try and choose a try with really high sides, I'll explain later.

Wet a clean tea towel and drape it loosely over the tin, here is where your high sides come in handy, it suspends the towel above the dough so when it expands it doesn't get stuck to the cloth.
Pop this into your make shift 'rising cabinet' or airing cupboard, check back after an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. If it's still looking a little small give it another half an hour.

Once the dough has risen bake it at 180c for 20-30 mins until it is golden brown and sound hollow when you tap it on its bottom.

When the bread it cooked, turn the oven off, turn the bread over in the tin and leave it all to cool down. This will ensure your bread has a nice crispy crust all the way down.. and not a soggy bottom.
Serve up, thickly sliced alongside, pate, baked cheese or with a steamy bowl of thick soup.

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