100 % Whole Wheat Walnut Loaf

2015-08-04 18.09.432015-08-04 18.21.35

There is nothing comparable to making your own bread in your own home with your own hands…..”

Tony Bridges

This weeks Alpha Bakers recipe from our baking group is 100 % Whole Wheat Walnut Loaf from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new baking book:





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.

The Bread Bible Picture

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 skins2015-08-02 17.32.59
  • Place the reserved kitchen tea towel on the sheet pan just removed from the oven and transfer the worked nuts to the clean towel
  • 2015-08-02 17.33.16
  • You will be amazed at the “nut dust” that is left behind from the removed skins2015-08-02 17.35.48
  • 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
  • 2015-08-02 17.46.47
  • 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
  • 2015-08-02 17.54.03For inventory, I have begun a “Martha Stewart” inventory listing of anything going into my freezer for future projects
  • 2015-08-02 18.01.35

Next we begin the Sponge.

Sponge mise en place

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

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.

2015-08-02 19.34.50 2015-08-02 19.40.56 2015-08-02 19.54.40

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.

2015-08-02 22.14.04

Next the dough is made.

Dough mise en place

Dough mise en place

2015-08-02 22.15.29 2015-08-02 22.42.34 2015-08-02 22.51.50

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

The dough is placed in a lightly oiled rising bowl

2015-08-02 23.10.16-1 2015-08-02 23.53.48

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.

2015-08-03 00.05.19

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.

2015-08-03 21.46.53

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.

2015-08-03 23.43.26

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.

2015-08-04 00.44.22


When the paring knife returns clean, the loaf is fully cooked.


2015-08-04 00.44.39

The loaf is then removed from the oven, removed from the baking dish to a cooling rack and allowed to cool for two hours.

2015-08-04 00.47.152015-08-04 00.46.24 2015-08-04 00.46.36 2015-08-04 00.46.47 2015-08-04 00.47.01 2015-08-04 00.47.15

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 ……



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.

2015-08-04 18.09.43 2015-08-04 18.09.54 2015-08-04 18.10.06 2015-08-04 18.10.16 2015-08-04 18.18.58 2015-08-04 18.19.09 2015-08-04 18.19.18 2015-08-04 18.19.30 2015-08-04 18.20.11 2015-08-04 18.20.43 2015-08-04 18.20.53 2015-08-04 18.21.21 2015-08-04 18.21.35 2015-08-04 18.21.46 2015-08-04 18.21.57

Now, after a day of reflection, I must say…


I am now thinking of the following variations the next time I make this wonderful bread as follows:

  1. Increase the nut volume by 1.5 percent
  2. Change the nut from walnuts to pistachios


© Tony Bridges and One Crumb at a Thyme, 2014

19 thoughts on “100 % Whole Wheat Walnut Loaf

  1. OK Tony, you win the prize for the most organized baker I know!!! I have been thinking that one problem I have is that although my freezer is well organized and I can find things easily, it’s very full of ingredients and there’s not much space for finished things–like extra baked goods, casseroles, etc. “What’s wrong with this picture….” Need to do some re-tooling there… Anyway, your bread is perfect! I do love the flavor but the texture needs improving on mine.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Michele! Sorry I did not respond earlier but I just saw your comment. I’m not sure if it was this post or not but one thing I began doing was keeping a “Martha Stewart Inventory” of all of my baking items in my freezer; I actually have two freezers so it helps to keep all of my pre-made baking supplies that are for my business in one freezer and all else in the other; It saves me time and allows me to have a clear space for the freezer when I’m baking cookies and they need to be frozen for about 10 minutes before baking to control the butter from spreading, etc….; it also works wonders when I’m baking a pie and I need to chill the dough, etc…HAPPY BAKING AND FREEZING!

  2. Tony The Good Baker. You followed the instructions! The crumb on your bread looks just perfect. I really felt you enjoy this bread. I did too. It really is a beautiful recipe.

  3. Tony, your whole wheat walnut bread look wonderful and very nice step by step are just great and it must taste delicious. ..P. S. I haven’t made yet because I have alot of home made already.

    • Rose Meggie, thank you so much for your kind words. I must say, you and your big sister are truly an inspiration to me as you both continually produce such high quality bread and other baking products that are so strikingly beautiful. Thank you so much

    • Thank you so much Jenifer! I just had another slice and I must say that the marriage between the nuttiest of the whole wheat and walnut combination along with the rich, soft, creamy tang of the goat cheese is truly an amazing combination.

  4. Tony! first i saw your perfect crumb. THEN i saw that you had followed the instructions to the letter! ah ha!!!

    so glad you left that note about how to add a comment because i haven’t been able to figure it out or remember from when you told me.

    • Rose, thank you for your comment. I SO enjoyed making your recipe this week! It is such a wonderfully hearty bread that is complimented by a tangy, soft cheese. So at least once, I was a good baker and followed your instructions to the T – HE HE

  5. Lovely loaf… that is the most perfect even colour! You have taught me something… I should have done the same as you and processed my whole bag of walnuts and frozen left over. I like your Martha Stewart list! Looking forward to seeing your cheeses/slice loaf tomorrow.

    • Thank you so much Jenifer! I am so happy to hear that my blog was educational! My goal is to share with everyone my strategies that I find that make baking an easier process or simply just things that I have learned along the way! I am about to post my new pictures YAY!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *