Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Whole Wheat Walnut Bread

I know I promised Rahmschnitzel when I got back from vacation, but that would have required a trip to the grocery store this morning.  And in the immortal words of Sweet Brown, ain't nobody got time for that.  If you don't know who she is, do yourself a favor and watch the auto-tuned remix of the video that made her famous:

Our breakfast throughout vacation consisted of several delicious breads with butter and jam and honey and cheese and meat and yogurt, but one of the best breads was a wheat bread that had nuts.  I have Trader Joe's white whole wheat flour in the cupboard, and some walnuts, so I found this recipe for Whole Wheat Walnut Bread on the King Arthur flour website.  Download the PDF now if you're interested in trying this bread, because King Arthur may someday remove the recipe or change it.

About 7/8 of a cup
So apart from using TJ's white whole wheat bread instead of King Arthur, I stuck to the recipe.  I didn't have any orange juice, so I substituted water, but the recipe calls for a varied amount of water depending on the time of year or local climate.  It's summer in the northern hemisphere now, so I went with 7/8 of a cup of water.  As you can see below, I had to eyeball it because my pyrex doesn't measure eighths.  I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil because that was all we had.  I toyed with the idea of adding cashews if there weren't enough walnuts, but there were enough in the end.

I was using two hands, but needed one to take the picture

At first I was going to chop the walnuts on a cutting board with a knife, but there were so few left that I decided to just smash them up with my hands in the bag.  I think I should have used a knife, because I don't think I got them quite fine enough.  At least compared to the picture of the finished bread from the recipe.

There were enough walnuts

I put all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl first, and dug a little hole in the center like the mouth of a cartoon volcano for the oil and water.  I used the dough hook and ran my Kitchenaid stand mixer at its lowest speed.  It didn't really mix the dough completely because it's a pretty dry dough.  I ended up kneading the dough right in the mixing bowl, then took it out and kneaded it on a cutting board for a while.  The dough seemed too dry to me, so as I was kneading it I would occasionally wet my hands slightly and keep kneading until it felt better.  It's hard to describe this exactly; when parts of the dough aren't sticking together and you've kneaded it quite a bit, you probably need a little more water.

Too dry!
After kneading in the bowl

 When the dough is ready, the recipe says to place it in a lightly greased bowl for 1 - 2 hours to rise before shaping it into a loaf.  I decided to go with the longer time, and gave it two solid hours.  I decided to use Trader Joe's organic virgin coconut oil to grease the bowl.  I use it for baking desserts and making crepes so I thought I'd give it a try for this bread.  Coconut oil is usually solid at room temperature but melts very quickly when heated, and I use it like shortening to grease things.  Take a dab from the top with a paper towel (one that won't shed little fibers into the food) and thinly coat the inside of whatever pan you're using.  This time of year it's liquid, so I dropped a little spoonful in the bowl and rubbed it around with my fingers.  It's supposed to be good for your skin too.

Liquid at room temperature this time of year

After two hours the recipe says to "gently deflate the dough," which is a process I am unfamiliar with.  I was going to look it up, but then I found myself with the dough in my hand starting to shape it into a loaf and found that the dough could be compressed easily.  That's probably what it meant by deflate the dough; I still haven't looked it up.  I greased the loaf pan with coconut oil again and shaped the dough as much like a log as I could.  To grease the plastic wrap I put over the loaf pan I rubbed it on the inside of the bowl the dough came out of, there was enough oil to coat it.

Coating the plastic

One more hour of rising, after moving to the loaf pan
Tented with foil

The recipe says to let the dough rise again, this time in the loaf pan.  I figured there was enough time before it would go in the oven, and I'm heating the oven anyway, I might as well make the herbed focaccia from my first blog post.  The timing was perfect, and now I have two breads from heating the oven only once.

Overall this dough had about 4 hours of rising before it went into the oven.  I baked for 20 minutes as instructed, then tented it with foil and gave it 20 minutes more.  The bread didn't look done to me so I gave it another five minutes but it still didn't look done.  I found my trusty meat thermometer to try and get the internal temperature of the bread (I don't have the instant read thermometer the recipe calls for).  I left it in the bread, re-tented the foil, and gave it another five minutes.   While the recipe says it should reach 190 degrees the temperature only ever got up to 170, but I felt that if I left it in any longer the bread would dry up.

I pulled the bread out and rubbed the top and sides with butter, probably about 2 tablespoons in all.  The large cracks in the bread that were there since kneading never went away, and the recipe is right.  This bread doesn't rise any more during baking.

First out of the oven

Buttering the top and sides

The final product
The bread didn't look nearly as fluffy as the bread pictured in the recipe.  I probably should have heated the water to between 130 degrees and 140 degrees; I think if the yeast had reacted more I would have gotten a lighter bread.  I will do that and also chop the walnuts more finely to get a more uniform distribution through the bread.  My wife liked it but I thought it was too dense, and it tasted nothing like the bread we had on vacation that inspired this experiment.  I haven't tried it with butter or anything yet, it might taste better for breakfast tomorrow.  I'll have to keep working on this recipe.

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