“There is nothing comparable to making your own bread in your own home with your own hands…..”
This weeks Alpha Bakers recipe from our baking group is 100 % Whole Wheat Walnut Loaf from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new baking book:
HOW IT WORKS:
Each week we as Alpha Bakers, are assigned one of the recipes from Rose’s new baking book and we as a group all over the world bake the same recipe at the same time. Our objective is to share our successes, where we got stumped, what questions did we have along the way, our joys and in some cases our baking shortcomings.
PER MY WEB HOST, in order to leave a comment on my site, you will need to click on the title of the blog each week. It opens into a new blog window in which comments are able to be left at the bottom of the blog. Thank you all for your comments!
FULL DISCLOSURE: This week I did not cheat and I followed the recipe verbatim. Marie, I know…..it’s a first….
We began our bread baking adventure by making the dough starter or Sponge. Other recipes thus far for the Alpha Bakers using The Baking Bible have used a Biga or Poolish as a starter. However with this recipe, the Sponge Method allows a much faster start for the dough, an hour to a four hour window, compared to 3 days for a Biga to ferment. The Sponge is therefore referred to as a pre-ferment.
For a crash course in the differences in the Sponge, Biga and Poolish starters, I recommend that you pick up a copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible.
As a quote from The Bread Bible on page 30 – 31, Rose quotes her friend Rob Ruotolo as he describes the Sponge stating,
” Not only are they delicious while I eat them, the flavor lingers in my mouth for a long time afterwards.”
Thus, the Sponge creates a depth of flavor both complex and texture-wise, it creates a different crumb that other dough starters.
The first process I completed was the toasting of the nuts. Rose has shown us in other recipes the process for removing the bitter skins on the walnut. The removal of the skins creates a much more palatable product and is well worth the effort.
My adapted process is as follows:
- Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil
- Roast the nuts based on the recipe oven temperature guidelines ( temperatures and times may vary depending on the particular nut used)
- Prepare two clean kitchen tea towels, placing one on a sheet pan and the other reserved to be used in soon – (I prefer the terry cloth myself as I find this grabs the skins more effectively than a plan, flat cloth)
- As soon as the warm nuts come out of the oven, transfer them to the prepared kitchen tea towel and rub the nuts gently to begin removing the skins
- Place the reserved kitchen tea towel on the sheet pan just removed from the oven and transfer the worked nuts to the clean towel
- You will be amazed at the “nut dust” that is left behind from the removed skins
- As overkill, I move the sheet pan holding the cleaned nuts to a cooling rack and then remove any remaining skins with clean, dry hands, rubbing the nuts between my palms then letting the nuts fall to my fingers. Opening my fingers slightly allows any final “nut dust” to fall onto the tea towel. I then transfer the impeccably cleaned nut to a sheet pan supported by a cooling rack and allow the nuts to cool completely
- Nuts are weighted for the recipe
- I process an entire bag at once and then weigh, label and date the bag of residual nuts and place the nuts in the freezer to increase the shelf life
- For inventory, I have begun a “Martha Stewart” inventory listing of anything going into my freezer for future projects
Next we begin the Sponge.
Sponge mise en place
Sponge ingredients are mixed in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined.
The water temperature is extremely important as too warm will kill the yeast and too cool will now allow the yeast to properly bloom.
I try to aim for around 75 degrees F
The bowl is covered and set in a *warm environment while the flour blanket is being made.
* I have found that if I preheat my oven to 400 degrees F and place the covered bowl next to the stove, I have created the perfect environment to allow yeast and dough to rise properly.
After the flour blanket has covered the liquid starter, it is covered, placed in a warming environment to ferment from 1 to 4 hours until the bottom liquid breaks through the flour blanket.
Next the dough is made.
Dough mise en place
Two rises are needed, therefore the marker is placed to show when the dough has risen to 1.5 times the original size
The dough is placed in a lightly oiled rising bowl
After fully risen twice, the dough is placed on a pastry cloth with only enough whole wheat flour to allow the dough to be pliable and not stick to the cloth.
Air bubbles are worked out gently with your thumbs then the dough is molded with your hands into an 8-inch rectangle.
The dough is then folded from top rolling to the base closest to you. As you roll, the dough is pressed down with your fingers to form a tight seal with each roll. Once at the end of the roll, the ends are pinched together to form a seal. The dough is shaped placed seal side down into a prepared, greased baking dish.
For the final rise, a piece of plastic wrap is gently sprayed and oil side down is loosely placed on the baking dish covering the dough. The dough is then moved to the warming environment for about an hour to an hour and a half until the dough has risen about an inch to an inch and a half above the top of the baking dish.
The oven is preheated at at minimum of 45 minutes at 450 degrees F with the oven rack moved to the lowest setting. A baking sheet or stone is placed on the rack to warm.
Once ready, the baking pan is placed gently onto the baking stone and a small sheet pan is placed on the base of the oven and about a half a cup of ice cubes are tossed onto the small sheet pan to create a steam environment for the bread to form a nice crust.
The oven is immediately reduced to 400 degrees F. The loaf is turned at the staged amount of time to promote even cooking and browning.
After the stated amount of baking time, a paring knife is inserted to gauge if the loaf is fully baked.
When the paring knife returns clean, the loaf is fully cooked.
The loaf is then removed from the oven, removed from the baking dish to a cooling rack and allowed to cool for two hours.
As my loaf is cooling now, I will post pictures of the sliced product tomorrow, so please come back to visit and sit a spell. I plan on stopping by the market tomorrow and purchasing cheese to spread on the cut loaf. Rose recommends a blue cheese. I will share my selection tomorrow.
Please leave your comments as they are always welcomed!
Until tomorrow ……
HAPPY BAKING YA’LL!
SO….I stopped by Harry’s Farmer’s Market and decided on a local goats milk cheese called, “Fresh Chevre Plain Capra Gla”. The taste is very acidic, tart and tangy, smooth and creamy and a PERFECT match for this wonderful Walnut Loaf.
Now, after a day of reflection, I must say…
I LOVE THIS BREAD!
I am now thinking of the following variations the next time I make this wonderful bread as follows:
- Increase the nut volume by 1.5 percent
- Change the nut from walnuts to pistachios
HAPPY BAKING YA’LL
© Tony Bridges and One Crumb at a Thyme, 2014